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Fire & Life Safety

Persons discovering a fire, smoke, gas leak, chemical spill or other emergency are to call campus police 828-227-8911 or 911 and report the nature of the emergency. The following information should be provided:

  • Callers name and the telephone number in which the caller can be reached.
  • Location and nature of the emergency, and special considerations (if known) i.e., hazardous chemicals, radiation, injured person, etc.

The University Police will dispatch an officer to the scene of the report and will summon emergency responders in accordance with the nature of the emergency. The caller or another person knowledgeable in the area where the emergency occurs should meet the responding Police Officer. 

The following procedures are to be followed in evacuating buildings. In many university departments, an emergency evacuation of the building will present unique considerations (libraries, food service, childcare, Ramsey Center, etc.), which require additional employee duties. These should be addressed in individualized departmental procedures.

  • When fire alarm signals are activated, occupants are to assume the emergency is real until they positively learn otherwise.
  • Potential hazards should be secured, such as open flames, hot plates, laboratory ovens, small appliances, compressed gases, chemical containers etc.
  • Evacuate the building, using the nearest stair tower to reach ground level. Do not attempt to use elevators.
  • Room doors should be closed.
  • Use caution when approaching closed doors. If the door is hot, chances are a fire is on the other side. In this case, do not open the door. Instead, use an alternate means of exit or, if one is not available, find a room with an outside window for air and advise the fire department by any means available that you are unable to leave the building.
  • If smoke is encountered, stay close to the floor.  Crawl if necessary.
  • Once outside the building, report to designated locations in accordance with department plans.

In general, emergency evacuation is dependent upon occupants being able to hear audible warnings, and walk down stairways (elevators are not safe to use in fire emergencies without fire department supervision). Therefore, special provisions may be needed to evacuate people with hearing or sight disabilities and for persons who are non-ambulatory. The following procedures describe the basic steps to follow:

  • If an immediate life threatening condition exists, classmates, fellow workers, the residence staff, etc. should assist handicapped persons in leaving the building.
  • When the fire alarm is sounding but no immediate threats to life are apparent persons unable to leave the building without assistance should seek an area of refuge.  University Police should be notified of this location by telephone and the officer in charge (Incident Commander) should be notified by people from the area. If evacuation is subsequently required, the fire department will supervise this.


Persons with disabilities should talk with other employees and students and develop a plan for emergency evacuation. Do this even if the disability is temporary.

In Libraries, the circulation desk should be notified of the locations of disabled persons working alone.

Disabled persons should assure that a telephone is readily available when working alone in a University classroom or research building.

The Cullowhee Fire Department responds to fire calls on campus.  University personnel are to support the Fire Department’s efforts by promptly evacuating the building, advising on specific hazards, managing building utilities and maintaining safe access to the site.  

Fire Alarms  

Alarms may be activated by pull boxes, smoke detectors, heat detectors, sprinklers or electrical faults. University personnel are to evacuate the building during fire alarms even when there is no immediate evidence of fire.

  • The Fire Department is to proceed to the building Fire Alarm Control Panel (FACP) and determine from the FACP the zone or device number within the building where the alarm originated.
  • After locating the area the Fire Department will investigate the indicated area checking for abnormal conditions such as smoke, dusts, paint mists, cooking fumes, vandalism, broken pull boxes, activated smoke detectors etc.
  • If no evidence of fire is encountered, the signal or alarm silence switch on the FACP will be activated. This will silence the horns/bells but lock-in the lamps which indicate the device causing the alarm. This will also give notice to occupants that they may re-enter the building.
  • For trouble shooting purposes responding campus Police Officer should obtain and record the location of the exact device causing the alarm and all suspected causes.

The Fire Department will restore the alarm system as follows: 

  • Pull boxes:  Reset the box with a key or tool. 
  • Smoke detectors:  These will automatically reset when the FACP is reset unless smoke is still in the detector. 
  • Heat detectors:  Cannot be reset, must be replaced, notify Facilities Management.  
  • Sprinklers:  Shut off the water, notify Facilities Management.
  • Activate the FACP Reset Switch to restore the system. If the system does not reset, wait 5 minutes and try again.

Use of Fire Extinguishers

Employees who have attended annual training in fire extinguisher use may operate Fire extinguishers all others must evacuate the building.

In general, fire extinguishers should not be relied upon to manage fires that are developing rapidly or in cases where fire spread may block your exit. Use of fire extinguishers is not a substitute for calling the fire department.

The types of fires one might encounter are classified A, B, C and D, as defined in the following:

  • Class A fires are fires in ordinary combustible materials, such as wood, cloth, paper, rubber, and many plastics.
  • Class B fires are fires involving flammable liquids.
  • Class C fires are fires which involve energized electrical equipment where the electrical non-conductivity of the extinguishing media is of importance. (When electrical equipment is de-energized, extinguishers for Class A or B fires may be used safely.
  • Class D fires are fires in combustible metals, such as magnesium, titanium, zirconium, sodium, and potassium.

The types of fire an extinguisher is effective on is indicated by one or more of the letters A, B, and C appearing on the extinguisher label. Class D fires require hand application of dry sand, graphite powder or a sodium chloride base powder. The fire department must be consulted on all metal fires.

Fire Extinguisher Operation

  • Pull the ring pin in the handle of the extinguisher. This usually requires about 15 lbs of pressure to break the seal, a slight twisting motion will help.
  • Aim the extinguisher nozzle at the base of the fire.
  • Sweep the discharge from side to side. In using some extinguishers on flammable liquids the fire may flare up momentarily when the agent is initially applied.
  • Soak the fire thoroughly. Many deep-seated fires in cushions, trash piles, etc., and flammable liquids fires may reignite if not completely extinguished.

If possible, use "Carbon Dioxide" extinguishers on fires in or around sensitive electronic equipment. These agents do not leave a residue after use.

Confinement of the Fire

A fire which cannot be put out with a fire extinguisher should be confined as much as possible by closing all doors where the fire is located.

Fire Hose

The operation of fire hoses requires special training, use of which should be left to the fire department.

The scope of this section is limited to incidental spills or releases of chemicals or gases which can be safely corrected at the time of the release by either personnel in the work area or by maintenance personnel. For spills and releases beyond the control of employees at the scene, university personnel will evacuate the release area and call for help from outside emergency responders.

Designated Facilities Management workers will attempt to contain the release from a safe distance, keep it from spreading, and prevent exposure.
Management of chemical spills and gas leaks usually requires the technical support of the supervisor or faculty member responsible for the material, and/or the campus safety officer.
Campus Police Officers and/or the Spill Response Team may be the first to arrive at the site. However, they should not enter spill or gas leak areas without knowledge of the material hazards and protective equipment required.
The following activities should be conducted prior to actual clean up or leak correction:

Determine the exact physical location of the release (e.g. in a room, hallway, or the floor, in a hood, storage room, on a table etc.) and the quantity of the release.
Isolate the spill or release as much as possible. Exhaust ventilation should be established if possible.
Evacuate all personnel from the spill or release area and attend to persons who may have been contaminated.
Obtain the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS/SDS) or consult the person responsible for the material to identify the material, its chemical and physical properties, hazards presented, and the types of protective equipment needed.
If the material is highly flammable attempt to turn off ignition sources if safe to do so.
Clean up personnel must wear protective clothing and equipment in accordance with the hazards of the material.
Spills of Chemicals
Confine the spill material as much as possible.
Use clay safety absorbent or diatomaceous solid absorbent to absorb any liquid.
Note: A neutralizing agent may be used on inorganic acids and bases but only under the supervision of a laboratory faculty member or the Safety Officer.
If the material is volatile let it evaporate and be exhausted by the mechanical exhaust system if safe to do so.
Carefully pick up cartons or bottles and place in a solid-walled container.
Place the absorbed liquid or solid in a plastic or metal container and label the container.
Dispose of residue according to Hazardous Waste Policies.
Gas Leaks
In cases involving highly flammable or toxic gases immediately dangerous to life the building should be evacuated.
Maintain the mechanical exhaust system if safe to do so.
Gas which is immediately life threatening should be shut off using a self contained breathing unit and full body protection for highly toxic gases.
Leaks, which are not immediately life threatening may be localized with soapy water or a gas, leak detector. For chlorine a squeeze bottle of aqueous ammonia should be used.
The supplier should be contacted for all leaks that cannot be remedied by a simple act such as tightening a valve gland or packing nut.

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