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Understanding The Colours Used In Emergency Vehicles

June 28, 2021

Emergency vehicle lighting is used as a visual alert to drivers and pedestrians drawing attention to the urgency of the first response vehicle, thus enabling the drivers and pedestrians to take necessary safety/preventative measures in allowing the first response vehicles' path to be unhindered thus ensuring a safe passage to the first responders. The specific colours or a combination of colours flashing or solid denote different first response vehicles to a driver or a pedestrian.


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Let’s find out more about the colours used in emergency vehicle lighting


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In Canada, red and white lights are used in emergency vehicles. Amber lights are used for parking/bylaw enforcement, construction, and utility vehicles. Amber with white lights is generally used in security vehicles. Based on provincial legislation, red or green lights can be used by volunteer firefighters. Police/peace officers use a combination of blue and red lights.


Snow removal vehicles in Ontario use blue lights too (as long as blue flashing lights are not used along with red flashing lights), while amber is used for municipal snow removal and amber and blue are used in Alberta and Saskatchewan. Purple lights are used for funeral processions in Ontario, British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Prince Edward Island.


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While this is what the colours of lights in emergency vehicles signify across Canada, it’s important to note that these are subject to be influenced by the local jurisdiction. Also, there are different laws governing the colours used in emergency vehicle lights in different provinces and countries. For example, in New Brunswick, green is reserved for the EMO command Post. Meanwhile, Manitoba allows the use of red lights for volunteer firefighters and Quebec allows them for off-road vehicles that are used on an off-road trail by trail security officers.


To summarize it all, red lights are used in police vehicles, fire trucks, and ambulances, blue lights are used by police vehicles and law enforcement personnel, amber lights are commonly used in construction vehicles, security vehicles and tow trucks, and white lights are used in police vehicles, ambulances, and fire trucks. Green is used by volunteer firefighters, and purple for funeral processions.


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