Fire and Emergency Evacuations

Have a plan before an emergency occurs.

There are approximately 6000 fires per year in office properties. Being prepared for a fire situation helps prevent injuries and death.

Everyone should know at least two routes out of any building/space they are in.

  • Make sure the exits you could use are clear and accessible.
  • Know the location of the fire alarm pull stations and fire extinguishers near you.

Familiarize yourself with your building(s). When walking around your building(s), look for exit pathways. Make sure all exit pathways are clear and that nothing is blocking the emergency exit doors. If you find locations where exits are blocked, clean them up or contact the Facilities Work Order Desk to have them cleared.

Page Content

Evacuating the Building

Feel the door before you open it.

If the door is hot, leave it closed and proceed with the Blocked Exit scenario below.

Leave the Building

If the door is safe to open, proceed to the nearest exit or to a designated location if you are unable to evacuate the building.

The last person out should close the door.

  • When doors are left open the room will be damaged by the heat and smoke, even if the fire doesn’t get to the room.

Never use the elevator in an emergency! Some elevators stop working when the alarm goes off, and if a building is filling with smoke the elevator shaft can act as a chimney.

Let emergency personnel know if anyone was unable to evacuate the building. As soon as you clear the building, tell emergency personnel the location of anyone you know is still inside.

Move away from the building

Move at least 100 feet away from the building when you exit.

  • Leave room for Emergency Responders
  • Don’t stand in the driveway, walkway, or in front of the doors

Stay out of the building

Do not re-enter the building until the building has been declared safe by emergency responders.

Blocked Exit

If you are unable to leave a room because there is fire or smoke on the other side of the door:

  1. Notify emergency personnel of your location by telephone and by hanging something out the window, if possible.
  2. Try to seal the cracks around the door using coats or anything else you have.
  3. Open the window only slightly if you need fresh air to breathe; remember, fires need air to burn.
  4. Stay low to the ground to avoid heat and smoke.
  5. Place something over your mouth to help filter out particles in the air, a wet cloth is ideal.

Evacuations for Persons With Disabilities

Evacuation Planning

It is especially important for persons with disabilities to plan ahead for emergency evacuations.

  • Be familiar with the buildings you use, know where the emergency exits and areas of rescue assistance are located.
  • Contact the Building Captain or Floor Manager for assistance designing an evacuation plan.
  • Sit down with your professor or supervisor to review the evacuation plan, make sure they know how they can best support you.
  • Identify classmates or coworkers who are willing to serve as assistants during an evacuation.
  • Be prepared to explain how a person can support you during an evacuation. If you are unable to communicate your needs verbally, use written information.
  • Remember that elevators cannot be used during emergency evacuations.

If you are unable to evacuate, determine one or two locations you can safely wait during an emergency. Your emergency plan should identify several people who will know the location(s) you will use and will direct emergency responders to your location.

If you will need evacuation assistance, make an emergency plan. Identify what kind of assistance you will need. Identify one or more people who will know your plan and how to help if an emergency occurs.

Evacuation Options

There are three options for what to do in the event of an emergency evacuation.

Exit the Building

If you are on the ground floor or can navigate the stairs with assistance, leave the building.

Make sure you and your evacuation assistants know which doors have ramps if you need one when exiting.

Areas of Rescue Assistance*

These areas are usually located in stairways behind fire doors. If the building you are in has an area of rescue assistance:

  • Go with your assistant to the area
  • Push the emergency call button
  • Wait in the Area of Rescue Assistance for the fire department

Your assistant should exit the building and immediately alert emergency personnel to your location.

Stay in Place

Staying where you are may be an option during an evacuation. Ideally you stay in place when you have a:

  • Room with a solid door
  • Phone
  • Exterior window.

Call 911 and tell the operator where you are, they will give your position to on-site emergency personnel.

Follow the Blocked Exit instructions if smoke starts to enter the room.

*Areas of Rescue Assistance

Current regulations state that Areas of Rescue Assistance must be behind a fire door and contain an emergency button that calls 911 when pressed. Some buildings on campus have areas that are labeled as areas of rescue assistance that are missing one or both of these items.

  • Check labeled areas in the buildings you frequent to make sure they have a call box and are behind a fire door.

If the area in your building has a call box but no fire door, you will need to move into a room if smoke or fire are present.

  • Push the call button
  • Tell the 911 operator you are at an emergency call box but you need to move into a room with a door
  • Tell the operator which room you are going into, if you can
  • Move into the room and close the door

Guidelines for Specific Disabilities

Persons Using Wheelchairs

Persons using wheelchairs should either move to an Area of Rescue Assistance or Stay in Place when the alarm sounds.

  • An assistant should help the person using a wheelchair to the safest location and then exit the building.
  • The assistant should alert emergency personnel to the location of the person using a wheelchair.
  • The person using a wheelchair should also call 911, if possible.

Wait until the heavy traffic has passed before entering Areas of Rescue Assistance that are located in stairways. Many stair landings are small and safely remaining in one while people are evacuating will be difficult.

Only in situations of extreme danger should untrained people attempt to move a person who uses a wheelchair down the stairs. Move only the person. Never attempt to move the person and wheelchair together.

Persons Requiring Mobility Assistance

Persons who require mobility assistance but are able to walk without a wheelchair may be able to exit in an emergency with minor assistance.

  • Individuals requiring mobility assistance should wait until heavy traffic has cleared from the stairway and then exit with their evacuation assistant(s). This will help to reduce the likelihood of falls which may occur when a stairway is very crowded.

If there is no immediate danger, the person who requires mobility assistance may choose to move to an Area of Rescue Assistance or Stay in Place. The evacuation assistant(s) should exit and notify emergency personnel of the person’s location.

Deaf or Hard of Hearing

Most buildings on campus have been equipped with fire strobe lights, but there are still a few buildings without them. Persons who have hearing disabilities may not hear the audio alarms and will need to be alerted to emergency situations. Short, explicit written notes can be used to ensure all emergency instructions are conveyed.

Individuals with hearing (or speech) disabilities can text 911 during an emergency.

Blind or Low Vision

Most people who are blind or have low vision will be familiar with their immediate surroundings and frequently traveled routes. Because emergency evacuation routes may be different than their normal one, persons who are visually impaired may need assistance evacuating.

An assistant should offer their elbow to the person who is visually impaired and guide them through the evacuation route. Communicate as necessary to ensure a safe evacuation.

Instructor Responsibilities

Evacuating the Building

Instructors and teaching assistants are in charge of ensuring their classes get outside during an evacuation. Review general emergency procedures with your class on the first day, if you can.

Pick a meeting spot for your class to gather during an emergency or a drill. Make sure your students know where they should meet. The meeting spot should be:

  • In a safe location (not in a driveway)
  • At least 100 feet from the building

If the fire alarm sounds you should:

  • Provide instructions to your students in a calm, clear manner to help prevent panic.
  • Close windows that are open.
  • In a lab, shut off gas supplies and close fume hood sashes.
  • Have students gather necessary items and exit safely.
    • Remind them not to use elevators in an emergency.
  • Ensure all students who are able leave the room and close the door behind you.
  • Gather with your students outside at the assembly point and try to take role.
  • Do not allow anyone to re-enter the building until emergency personnel give the all clear.

If you have students with disabilities that could make exiting the building difficult, meet with them to discuss an evacuation plan.

If they are unable to evacuate, notify emergency personnel as soon as you exit of the student’s location.

Power Outages

Power outages may occur during classes. Many campus buildings are equipped with emergency power generators, which come on automatically. These generators power a few items for a limited time, exit lighting may be low or may not be present in your classroom.

If the power goes out during class:

  • Instruct everyone to remain in their seats. This will let their eyes adjust to the lower light levels and will provide time for the lights to come back on.
  • If the outage appears long-term, have students gather their coats and books and slowly exit the building.
  • If you are in a lab, make sure all equipment is off before leaving.

If your classroom is completely dark, contact EH&S as soon as possible and fill out an Incident Report after the evacuation so that lights can be checked/installed.