Fire Safety

What are the most common causes of fires on campus?

The most common causes of fires on the campus are improperly discarded smoking materials, use of electrical equipment in poor condition, and improper handling or storage of chemicals.

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How do I report a fire or other emergency on campus?

To report a University emergency, call the University of Chicago Police Department from any on-campus telephone by dialing 123. If you are reporting a University emergency utilizing a cell phone, dial 773-702-8181.

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When should I pull the fire alarm?

If you see or smell smoke or see a fire in a building, you should pull the fire alarm. As you are evacuating pull the nearest alarm. This will send a signal to the fire alarm panel indicating that area and allowing the fire department to more efficiently find that area. Once safely outside of the building, call University Police and confirm the incident at 773-702-8181. If in the medical center, call 773-702-6262.

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Can the fire alarm pull station be pulled for anything other than a fire or seeing or smelling smoke?

The pull stations are designed to signal that a fire related incident has occurred. However, if immediate evacuation of the building is needed do to a chemical spill, structural collapse, or other event requiring immediate evacuation is necessary, pulling the alarm is acceptable. Confirm the incident with University Policy by calling 773-702-8181 for the campus and in the medical center call Public Safety at 773-702-6262 and explain the nature of the emergency once safely outside the building.

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What type of fire and smoke detectors are there on campus?

The campus uses a combination of heat and smoke detectors on campus. Cigarette smoke will set off the smoke detectors. The heat detectors will be set off once temperatures reach the preset temperature. Do not cover or block these devices in any way. This will compromise their ability to detect smoke or heat.

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What are evacuation maps?

These maps show the proper way to exit the building in the event of an emergency. They indicate the stairways, elevators, areas of rescue assistance/ priority rescue areas, and emergency communication devices. Evacuation maps are posted throughout the campus.

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Is there any assistance available for persons with disabilities?

Twice a year the university will ask faculty, staff, and students if they will require assistance in an emergency. Self identification is voluntary. The purpose of this request is to assemble information to assist in alerting, evacuating, or sheltering individuals in the event of an emergency. Individuals who would like to take the opportunity of this assistance should complete the confidential Self- Identification Questionnaire. A personal plan will be developed for the individual based on their needs.

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What are areas of rescue assistance and priority rescue areas?

Individuals with mobility impairments may not be able to exit a building without help from fire, police, or other emergency personnel. Persons who are unable to evacuate should await evacuation assistance in designated rescue locations, such as an area of rescue assistance or priority rescue area.

Area of rescue assistance is an area, which has direct access to an exit, where people who are unable to use the stairs may remain temporarily in safety to wait further instructions or assistance during an emergency evacuation. (These are found in newer buildings post 1990’s).

Priority rescue areas are designate locations in buildings that are identified to rescue personnel as likely areas for individuals to be found in the event they are unable to evacuate a building. Priority Rescue Areas are clearly marked and are generally located in a stairwell or in an area immediately adjacent to a stairwell.

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What type of holiday decorations are allowed in University facilities?

The University does not allow natural vegetation, such as trees, wreaths, and hay bales. All lighting and other electrical equipments must be UL listed and in good working condition. No items are to be hung from the ceiling in corridors. Exit signs, emergency lighting, extinguishers and sprinkler heads must remain visible and accessible. Lit candles are also prohibited.

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Why can’t I store items in the corridor or hallway?

The storage of items in corridors or hallways is not permitted by City of Chicago code. When items are stored in these spaces they provide a potential hazard in the event of an emergency where occupants are attempting to exit the building. The corridors and hallways are also to remain free of items due to fire load. These exit routes are designed with limited fire load and by adding items to this area this increases the fire load and can make for a more devastating incident.

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Why can’t I prop open our stairwell door?

Stairwell doors are designed to be in the closed position. Stairwell doors provided a smoke and fire barrier. The stairwell door has a fire rating which protects the stairwell, as long as the doors are shut. The stairwell will act like a chimney if smoke enters, allowing the smoke to travel vertically to the upper floor. At no time should wooden chocks, brick, or other items be used to prop open a stairwell door.

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What is the University’s fire response plan?

The University’s fire response plan is best summarized by the acronym RACER. R Stands for Rescue everyone in the immediate area, A stand for Alarm the nearest pull station, C stands for Contain the smoke by closing all windows and doors, E stands for Extinguish the fire if safe to do so, and R stands for Relocate to a safe location outside the building.

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Why is Fire Safety and Evacuation training required annually?

The Occupational Health and Safety Administration mandates annual fire safety and evacuation training. The employer must provide training on emergency action plans and portable fire extinguishers. The Environmental Health and Safety office offers monthly training sessions that can be registered for by going to http://training.uchicago.edu and the course is also available online at http://chalk.uchicago.edu.

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Should I try to fight the fire?

If you are trained, comfortable and willing, have a charged fire extinguisher of the proper type, have an unobstructed escape route and the fire is not spreading beyond the immediate area it is safe to fight the fire. Your safety is number one.

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How do I know if an extinguisher is ok to use?

There are many types of fire extinguishers on campus. Not all of them can be visually checked to see if they are ready to use. ABC extinguishers can easily be checked by looking at the gauge on the front and ensuring the indicator is in the green area. This is the same for water extinguishers. Carbon dioxide extinguishers are checked by weight. The Environmental Health and Safety Office conducts monthly checks on all extinguishers.

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How do I use a fire extinguisher?

To operate a fire extinguisher, remember the acronym PASS. Once you have the proper type of extinguisher in hand. Pull the in by breaking the safety seal, Aim the nozzle or horn at the base of the fire, Squeeze the handle down allowing the contents of the extinguisher to flow out, and use a Sweeping motion with the nozzle or horn along the base of the fire. Continue until the fire is out or until the extinguisher is fully discharged. If necessary retrieve additional extinguishers. Remember your safety is number one.

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Who do I call if I use or find a used fire extinguisher?

If you use a fire extinguisher or see an extinguisher that is not charged or is damaged call the contact on the back of the attached extinguisher tag. Each extinguisher tag has a list of contacts on it. Call the one with the box checked and report the location and type of extinguisher.

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Are there different types of fire extinguishers for different types of fires?

There are five classes of fires. Each class has at least one effective fire extinguisher. The classes are Class A (ordinary combustibles), Class B (flammable liquids), Class C (energized electrical equipment), Class D (combustible metals) and Class K (cooking media).

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What will set a sprinkler head off?

Sprinkler heads are designed so that at a specific temperature the glass bulb of the sprinkler head with break and allow the water to flow out of the head. Although they are designed to go off for this reason, sometimes bumping them will break the glass as well. The glass component is fragile. When working near the heads, keep a close eye on moving around them. A simple bump could be enough to set them off. Unlike the movies, only the sprinkler head activated will go off, not an entire room.

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Is there a process for fire protection equipment that needs taken out of service?

A Red Tag Permit must be obtained any time fire protection equipment is taken out of service. This permit, which is obtained by calling Environmental Health and Safety at 773-702-9999, gives the required permission to take the system out of service. The process also notifies the Chicago Fire Department, University Police, and the insurance carrier.

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What type of permit is required for conducting hot work?

Hot work is defined as any temporary operation involving open flames or producing heat/sparks which includes, but is not limited to brazing, open-flame soldering, oxygen cutting, grinding, arc welding/cutting, oxy-fuel gas welding, hot taps, and torch applied roofing that are capable of initiating fires or explosions. Any employee or contractor conducting any type of hot work at the university must contact the Environmental Health and Safety office at 773-702-9999 to obtain a Hot Work Permit. A Safety Officer will come to the location and conduct walk through. If everything meets the requirements of the check list, the Hot Work Permit will be issued.

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What can I do to improve fire safety in my area?

There are simple things such as ensuring your corridors and exit are not obstructed, knowing your evacuation routes, knowing how to use the fire extinguishers and their location, and knowing the location of your nearest pull station, that can improve the safety of your work area. If you see a problem, say something to your supervisor.

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Can I smoke in a building?

There is no smoking permitted within any building. City of Chicago code requires no smoking within fifteen feet of the entrance to any building. For buildings with LEED (Leaders in Energy and Environmental Design) certifications there is no smoking within 25 feet of the entrance.(Searle Chemistry Lab).

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