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Fire Safety


    If you hear a fire alarm:

    • You must evacuate the building. Ensure that all present in your area also evacuate.
    • Shut off your room lights and close the door. Do not lock the door.
    • Take your backpack, briefcase, purse, and coat with you. Do not retrieve these items if doing so would delay your evacuation.
    • Evacuate the building via the nearest fire exit and remain well away from the building (at least 500 feet), until informed by a University Police officer that you may re-enter.

    For more guidelines on what to do during a fire emergency, refer to the information below.

    Emergency Evacuation of People with Disabilities

    While an “emergency” by its very definition is an unforeseen event, it also usually requires immediate action. Developing an evacuation plan which addresses identifying exits, designates areas of refuge and assembly points (where all evacuees will meet once they have evacuated the building), and provides additional assistance to persons with disabilities gives everyone a plan of action which shortens their response time and enables them to help themselves and others.

    All persons at UWO, including those with disabilities, must prepare for emergencies ahead of time. An evacuation plan must start with this basic premise: Everyone must try to evacuate to the nearest, safe exit.

    At least two emergency passageways must be identified in each building. Each passageway must either lead to an exit or safely lead to a designated area of refuge.

    After identifying the exits, a recommendation is that each person with a disability ask a co-worker, friend, or fellow student to assist if an emergency develops. This “evacuation assistant” should be informed about what disabilities you have and how he or she can best help you.

    Persons with disabilities have four basic evacuation options:

    • Horizontal evacuation: This entails using building exits to gain access to outside ground level, or going into unaffected wings of multi-building complexes.
    • Stairway (vertical) evacuation: This means of evacuation means using stairwells to reach ground-level exits from the building.
    • Staying in Place: Unless danger is imminent, remaining in a room with an exterior window, a telephone and a solid or fire-resistant door may be your best option. With this approach, the person may keep in contact with emergency services by dialing 9-911 and reporting his or her location directly to the University Police.
      • The police will then immediately relay this location to on-site emergency personnel, who will determine the necessity for evacuation. Phone lines are expected to remain in service during most building emergencies. If the phone lines fail, the individual can signal from the window by waving a cloth or other visible object. NOTE: The Stay in Place approach may be more appropriate for sprinkler-protected buildings, or buildings where an “area of refuge” is not nearby or available. It may also be more appropriate for an occupant who is alone when the alarm sounds. A label on the door jamb or frame can identify a fire-resistant door. Non-labeled 1 ¾ inch thick solid core wood doors hung on a metal frame also offer good fire resistance.
    • Area of Refuge: With an evacuation assistant, going to an area of refuge away from obvious danger is another emergency plan option. The evacuation assistant will then go to the building evacuation assembly point and notify the on-site emergency personnel of the location of the person with a disability. Emergency personnel will determine if further evacuation is necessary. The safest Areas of Refuge are stair enclosures common to high-rise buildings, and open-air exit balconies. Other possible Areas of Refuge include fire-rated corridors or vestibules adjacent to exit stairs and elevator lobbies. Many campus buildings feature fire-rated corridor construction that may offer safe refuge. Taking a position in a rated corridor next to the stairs is a good alternative to a small stair landing crowded with the other building occupants using the stairways as a means of egress in an emergency. For false alarms or an isolated and contained fire, a person with a disability may not have to evacuate. The decision to evacuate will be made by the Oshkosh Fire Department (OFD). The OFD will tell the individual of their decision or relay the information via the University Police Department.

    Suggested Guidelines for Different Types of Disabilities

    • Mobility Impaired – Wheelchair: Persons using wheelchairs should Stay in Place, or move to an Area of Refuge with their assistant when the alarm sounds. The evacuation assistant should then proceed to the evacuation assembly point outside the building and alert the Oshkosh Fire Department or University Police to the location of the person with a disability. If the person with a disability is alone, he or she should phone 9-911 with their present location and the area of refuge they are headed to.NOTE: If the stair landing is chosen as the area of refuge, please note that many campus buildings have relatively small stair landings, and wheelchair users are advised to wait until heavy traffic has passed before entering the stairway. Stairway evacuation of wheelchair users should be conducted only by trained professionals or the Oshkosh Fire Department. Only in situations of extreme danger should untrained people attempt to evacuate wheelchair users.
    • Mobility Impaired – Non-Wheelchair: Persons with mobility impairments who can walk independently may be able to negotiate stairs in an emergency with minor assistance. If danger is imminent, the individual should wait until the heavy traffic has cleared before attempting the stairs. If there is no immediate danger (such as detectable smoke, fire, or an unusual odor), the person with the disability may choose to stay in the building with the options listed above, until the emergency personnel arrive and determine if evacuation is necessary.
    • Deaf/Hard of Hearing: Most buildings on campus are equipped with fire alarm strobe lights; however, some are not. Persons with hearing loss may not hear audio emergency alarms and will need to be alerted of emergencies. Emergency instructions can be given by writing a short explicit note to evacuate. Reasonable accommodations for persons with hearing loss may be met by modifying the building fire alarm system, particularly for occupants who spend most of their day in one location. Persons requiring such accommodation should contact the UWO ADA Coordinator at (920) 424-2296 (voice) or email at
    • Visually Impaired: Most people with a visual impairment will be familiar with their immediate surroundings and frequently traveled routes. Since the emergency evacuation route is likely different from the commonly traveled route, persons who are visually impaired may need assistance in evacuating. The assistant should offer their elbow to the individual with a visual impairment and guide him or her through the evacuation route. During the evacuation, the assistant should communicate as necessary to assure a safe evacuation.

    Prior planning and practicing of emergency evacuation routes are important in ensuring a safe evacuation.

    For additional information, contact UWO’s ADA Coordinator in Dempsey Hall, Room 211, (920) 424-2296.

    Evacuation Drills

    I.    General Guidelines and Policy:

    A.    Purpose
    The purpose of fire exit drills is to ensure the efficient and safe use of the exit facilities available in the case of an emergency. Proper drills ensure orderly exit under control and prevent the panic that has been responsible for much of the loss of life in the major fire disasters of history.

    Order and control are the primary purposes of the drill. Speed in emptying buildings, while desirable, is not in itself an object, and should be made secondary to the maintenance of proper order and discipline.

    B.    Responsibility
    Fire exit drills shall be designed and conducted according to the occupancies specified below and in cooperation with the authority having jurisdiction. Responsibility for the planning and conduct of drills shall be assigned by campus risk management and safety to competent persons qualified to exercise leadership.

    A written record of all drills conducted should be maintained including a critique of the event. This record should be maintained by the campus safety or risk management.

    C.    General Guidelines
    Drills shall include suitable procedures to make sure that all persons in the building, or all persons subject to the drill, actually participate. If a fire exit drill is considered merely a routine exercise from which some persons may be excused, there is a grave danger that in an actual fire, the drill will fail in its intended purpose.

    All drills should be preplanned and preannounced. Surprise drills tend to limit productive learning, breed apprehension, and cause passivity to future alarms.

    Any alarm not preceded by a plan or announcement shall be treated as an actual fire condition. Fire exit drills shall be held with sufficient frequency to familiarize all occupants with the drill procedure and to have the conduct of the drill a matter of established routine.

    Drills should be carefully planned to simulate actual fire conditions. Not only should they be held at varying times, but different means of exit should be used based upon an assumption that if some given stairway is unavailable because of fire or smoke, all the occupants must be led out by some other route.

    .Fire exit drills should be designed to familiarize the occupants with all available means of exit, particularly emergency exits that are not habitually used during the normal occupancy of the building.

    D.    Fire Exit Signs
    Adequate posting of fire exit signs is a responsibility that each campus must address. A highly visible graphic design should be conspicuously posted with the following information:

    • Evacuation routes
    • Location of portable extinguisher

    The term “fire exit drill” is used to avoid confusion between drills held for rapid evacuation of buildings and drills of fire fighting practice that, from a technical viewpoint are correctly designated as “fire drill”, although this term is common usage applied to egress drills in schools, etc.

    II.    Fire Exit Drills in Specific Campus Occupancies:

    The usefulness of a fire exit drill and the extent to which it can be carried out depends upon the character of the occupancy.

    Drills are most effective in occupancies such as classrooms, where the occupant load of the building is under discipline and subject to habitual control. In buildings where the occupant load is changing and not under discipline such as Student Unions, no regularly organized fire exit drill is possible.

    In such cases, the fire exit drills must be limited to the regular employees, who can be thoroughly schooled in the proper procedure and can be trained to properly direct other occupants of the building in case of fire. In occupancies such as hospitals, regular employees can be rehearsed in the proper procedure in case of fire. Such training always is advisable in all occupancies whether or not regular fire exit drills can be held.

    The following sections address some of the special fire exit drill details which should be observed for specific occupancy classes.

    A.    Educational Occupancies — Classrooms, Lecture Halls, Laboratories, Administrative Buildings, Workshops
    All educational buildings on campus must hold one fire exit drill per year, preferably during the first four weeks of the semester. Faculty and staff shall work in cooperation with safety personnel in scheduling drills before the semester begins to allow for curriculum planning.

    Evacuation instructions are to be conspicuously posted in buildings to provide the necessary evacuation information and ensure orderly egress from the building. Signs should also specify that elevators must not be used to exit and should delineate alternative routes.

    Classroom faculty and staff should be familiar with the easiest exit to be used in the fire drill and the alternative exits available. Faculty and staff should close (not lock) doors and windows and take responsibility for checking facilities for complete evacuation. All personal belongings within reach should be taken from classrooms by students.

    Handicapped students should inform faculty or staff at the start of the semester of any special requirements concerning locations and procedures that will best facilitate those students’ egress from the building in an emergency. In general, wheelchair users should go to the stairwell which is furthest from the fire, and wait for help.

    Fire departments should be notified that stairwells be checked first. Other handicapped persons should be assisted by the student’s faculty or staff.

    B.    Residential Occupancies — Dormitories, Lodges, Etc.
    Residential facilities demonstrate the greatest need for adequate and effective fire exit awareness due to the potential loss of life in what often are high-rise structures. Fire exit drills in dormitories must be performed once per year at a minimum.

    Because of the nature of the occupancy, it is usually the case that additional drills are performed due to false alarms.

    A major concern in dormitory fire drills is the resistance of residents to evacuate the building in the event of a drill. This problem may be alleviated by contacting the city attorney to determine what type of citation may be applied (i.e., disorderly conduct).

    Citations may then be issued during the fire drill by the fire department or other officials to achieve cooperation. Resident assistants and other employees must take responsibility for the complete and orderly evacuation of the building. Education and awareness are key components of an effective fire evacuation program.

    Directional signs in hallways and each dorm room will help students to become more fully aware of their options. Special consideration must be given to handicapped students about fire safety in dormitories.

    To be most effective, handicapped students should be required to evacuate the building during a fire exit drill regardless of their location in the building. Preplanning is key for the handicapped person because his/her familiarity with the buildings, exits and the safest methods of egress is vital.

    First responders should preplan by having designated individuals assigned to evacuate handicapped persons requiring assistance. The handicapped person should also seek out buddies to assist in the evacuation and should explain all instructions beforehand.

    No one should be left behind during a fire exit drill or fire condition. To facilitate evacuation, handicapped persons should be assigned to rooms on the ground or egress level whenever possible.

    If evacuation of a handicapped person is not possible, he/she should return to the room, close the door or proceed to the nearest stairwell, he or she should phone 9-911 with their present location and the area of refuge they are headed to and wait for the fire department rescue.

    For this reason, each dorm should have a list of all handicapped students and their room location on file with the fire department. On each floor of the facility, the resident staff should proceed down the hall knocking loudly on each door as he/she passes.

    Staff should not unlock each door as this is time-consuming and may result in danger to the staff person.

    C.    Assembly Occupancies — Theaters, Auditoriums, Lecture Halls, Arenas, Student Unions
    Because actual fire drills are not practical for places of noncontinuous assembly where the students or public body changes with each program, employees or attendants of such places should be schooled in the duties they are to perform in case of fire to be of greatest service in effecting orderly exit of assemblages.

    An adequate number of competent attendants must be on duty when assembly occupancy is used. Attendants should be instructed in the proper use of portable fire extinguishers and other manual fire suppression equipment if provided.

    An audible announcement may be made before the start of each program to notify occupants of the location of the exits to be used in the case of an emergency. Signs with directions for speedy and orderly egress should be posted at aisle ends and all entrances and exits.

    D.    Day-Care Occupancies
    To meet the requirements for certification, an approved fire evacuation plan shall be executed not less than once per month in campus day-care centers pending severe weather. Fire safety should be included in the curriculum of the day-care center taught by knowledgeable staff to ensure preparedness by children and staff.

    Large uncomplicated signs should be strategically placed and explained to children before a fire exit drill to help educate them on orderly egress. A fire exit drill coordinator shall be assigned to coordinate the fire drill efforts and to maintain written records of the drills and critiques thereof.

    Staff shall be instructed to check each room for children and shall have responsibility for a specific group of children during a fire drill. Upon exiting a room, doors and windows should be closed but not locked.

    Roll call will be taken immediately after exiting the building to ensure that all children have evacuated and are present. Area fire authorities should be consulted to confirm that fire exit drills are being executed most safely and efficiently for a specific building.

    E.    Administrative Occupancies
    Due to the stable nature of administrative buildings, fire exit drills should be held annually following the guidelines outlined in the section on educational occupancies above. Special consideration must be given to handicapped employees and non-employee guests in the building.

    Awareness by the occupying staff of the needs of these people will help to facilitate easy egress.

    Fire Inspection Checklist

    The following items are included on the checklist used by the Oshkosh Fire Department when inspecting UW Oshkosh buildings:


    • Obstructed exit: Remove any obstruction to exit immediately.
    • Fire escape route blocked or restricted: Remove any obstruction to the fire escape route immediately. Storage resulting in restricted access is prohibited.

    Fire Doors

    • General: Exit doors must be identified and operable.
    • Exit door blocked or restricted: Remove any obstruction to exit doors immediately.
    • Inoperative fire door: Fire doors must be operative, self-closing, or attached to a fused device.
    • Closing door device: Check the self-closing device to assure it is functional.
    • Door wedged open: Immediately remove the wedge or item holding the fire-rated door in an open position.
    • Latches: Self-closing doors should close fully and latch.
    • Panic Bar: Assure that the panic bar is in operable condition.

    Housekeeping — Miscellaneous

    • Aisles/Stairs/Hallways: Immediately remove any obstruction, material, or trash that could hamper easy exits from aisles, hallways, and stairwells.
    • Storage in basements and attics: Must be neat and reasonable.
    • Storage in stairwells and stairwell landings is prohibited.
    • Wall decorations: Combustible decorations on walls not to exceed 10% of overall wall space.
    • Gas cylinders: Pressurized cylinders must be labeled and secured.
    • Storage areas: Storage rooms or areas must be neat and reasonable.


    • Charge: Examine the pressure gauge to determine if fully charged.
    • Service: Examine extinguisher pin for any apparent damage and check for broken seal.
    • Tagged/Marked: Tag should indicate inspection within the past month.
    • Blocked: Assure that extinguisher is accessible for use and unblocked by furniture or debris (three-foot minimum clearance).
    • Mounted: The top of the fire extinguisher should be no more than five feet from the floor.

    Flammable And Combustible Liquids

    • Storage: Flammable liquids must be stored in a flammable liquids safety container.


    • Excessive/Improper Storage: Remove flammable decorations from areas of assembly to alleviate hazards. Remove combustible material from mechanical or equipment rooms.


    • Defective Fixtures: Assure immediate repair of any damaged electrical fixtures.
    • Missing Cover Plate: Immediately replace any missing or damaged outlet covers.
    • Missing Electrical Panel Cover: Report any missing or damaged electrical panel covers.
    • Extension Cord: Cords are allowed for temporary use of portable appliances.
    • Access Blocked to Electrical Panel: Remove materials blocking access to the panel (3-foot minimum clearance).


    • Storage: No items may be stored within 18″ of a sprinkler head in any direction.


    Fire Extinguisher Use

    How to Use a Portable Fire Extinguisher

    Employees are not expected to fight fires. Your responsibility in a fire situation is to alert others and evacuate.

    Small fires can often be put out quickly by a well-trained individual with a portable fire extinguisher. However, to do this safely, you must understand the use and limitation of a portable fire extinguisher and the hazards associated with fighting fires.

    Do not attempt to extinguish any fire without calling for help and pulling the fire alarm. Always leave an exit at your back to escape before using an extinguisher.

    Make sure the fire is limited to the original material ignited and is contained (such as in a wastebasket). To extinguish a fire with a portable extinguisher, a person must have immediate access to the extinguisher, know how to actuate the unit, and know how to apply the agent effectively.

    Attempting to extinguish even a small fire carries some risk. Fires can increase in size and intensity in seconds, blocking the exit path and creating a hazardous atmosphere.

    In addition, portable fire extinguishers contain a limited amount of extinguishing agents and can be discharged in a matter of seconds. Therefore, individuals should attempt to fight only very small or incipient stage fires.

    Remember (P.A.S.S.): Pull, Aim, Squeeze, Sweep


    • Holding the extinguisher upright, twisting the pin to break the plastic safety seal. Pull the pin completely out.


    • Aim low. Point the extinguisher nozzle (or its horn or hose) at the base of the fire, not the flames. This is important – to put out the fire, you must extinguish the fuel.


    • Squeeze the handle. This releases the extinguishing agent.


    • Using a sweeping motion, move the fire extinguisher back and forth until the fire is completely out. Watch the fire area. Back away if a fire breaks out again repeat the process.
    • Operate the extinguisher from a safe distance, several feet away, and then move towards the fire once it starts to diminish. Be sure to read the instructions on your fire extinguisher – different fire extinguishers recommend operating from different distances.
    Fire Extinguisher Placement and Maintenance

    Fire Extinguisher Placement

    The number and placement of Fire Extinguishers are dictated by Chapter 10 of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), Sub-Chapter 6, Installation of Portable Fire Extinguishers.  NFPA Free Access Widget


    Inspection and Maintenance of Fire Extinguishers

    Adequate maintenance of fire extinguishers consists of periodically inspecting each extinguisher, recharging each extinguisher following discharge, and performing hydro-testing as needed.

    An inspection is a quick visual check that visually determines whether the fire extinguisher is properly placed and will operate. Its purpose is to give reasonable assurance that the extinguisher is fully charged and will function effectively if needed.

    To be effective, inspections must be frequent, regular, and thorough. Maintenance, as distinguished from inspection, means a complete and thorough examination of each extinguisher.

    A maintenance check involves examining all its parts, cleaning and replacing any defective parts, and reassembling, recharging and where appropriate, pressurizing the extinguisher. Maintenance should be performed periodically, but at least once every year, after each use, or when an inspection shows that the need for maintenance is obvious.

    Dry Chemical Extinguishers

    Dry chemical extinguishers should be inspected monthly and should undergo normal annual maintenance. The quantity of agent for a cartridge-operated model can be checked by weighing, or by removing the fill cap and checking it visually.

    The gas cartridge may be checked by weighing. On stored-pressure models, the pressure gauge will indicate if adequate pressure is maintained and the agent quantity can be checked by weighing.

    Carbon Dioxide Extinguishers

    Weighing is the only way to determine whether carbon dioxide extinguishers are fully charged. They should be weighed at least semiannually for loss of weight and inspected for deterioration and/or physical damage.

    Although fire extinguishers can hold their charge indefinitely, they can malfunction. Therefore, regulations require they be hydro-tested every so often.

    The purpose of hydrostatic testing of portable fire extinguishers that are subject to internal pressures is to protect against unexpected, in-service failure. This failure may be due to undetected internal corrosion caused by moisture in the extinguisher; external corrosion caused by atmospheric humidity or corrosive vapors; damage caused by rough handling, repeated pressurizations, manufacturing flaws in the construction of the extinguisher; improper assembly of valves or safety relief discs; or exposure of the extinguisher to abnormal heat, as during a fire.

    ABC Extinguishers Hydrotest every 12 years maintenance
    Maintenance (internal) every 6 years
    CO2 Extinguishers Hydrotest every 5 years

    UWO Custodial Services maintains all campus extinguishers to these standards.

    Help Eliminate Fire Hazards

    Electrical Abuse:

    • Electrical hazards represent a serious, widespread occupational danger; practically all members of the workforce are exposed to electrical energy during the performance of their daily duties. You must be aware of the potential for a fire resulting from electrical hazards.
    • Use of electrical “octopuses” to obtain more outlets can result in overloaded circuits and fire. Use only 15 amp fused power strips. Replace damaged wires and be sure to match your appliance power requirements to the circuit power.
    • Never remove the grounding post from a three-prong plug.
    • Hotplates, coffee makers, irons, space heaters, etc. should never be left unattended. They should be unplugged after use and not stored until they are cool enough to touch. Keep heaters away from curtains and furniture.
    • Match the size of an extension cord to the appliance power cord to prevent cord overheating. Extension cords are not intended for “permanent” installations. Wherever possible, appliances shall be connected to permanently wired receptacles.
    • A three-foot clearance is required in front of all circuit breaker panels. Storage of combustibles in mechanical/electrical service closets is prohibited.

    See also Electrical Safety in the Office for information relating to eliminating electrical hazards in the office environment.


    Storage of bicycles, chairs, desks, file cabinets, boxes, and other items is prohibited in all exit ways. Storage is prohibited in all exits and aisles leading to exits. This includes primary hallways and all stairwells.

    Exits must remain unobstructed and accessible at all times. Blocked exits have caused “chain reaction” pile-ups of fallen people during emergencies. Obstructed stairwells or exits can seriously hinder your escape effort during an emergency.

    Historically, blocked exits are the cause of most fire-related deaths in commercial buildings.

    Open Flames:

    • Open flames such as Bunsen burners, barbecue grills, torches, etc. shall never be left unattended. Extinguish all open flames, even if left for a very short time.


    • Never prop open fire doors with wedges or other objects. The very purpose of these doors is to prevent smoke and heat from traveling up stairwells and along corridors.

    Flammable Liquids and Gases:

    • Storage of flammable liquids in laboratories, shops, and classrooms is limited to specific quantities and approved containers, cabinets, or vaults.
    • Know what the maximum permissible quantity of flammable liquids is for your laboratory area and never exceed this amount. Reference your department’s Laboratory Safety Plan for additional information.