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Fire Safety Policies

The Safety and Risk Management Office is responsible for enforcing the North Carolina Building and Fire Codes, investigating fire incidents, developing evacuation procedures, and maintaining fire alarm and extinguishing systems across campus.  

The University Safety Officer is responsible for inspecting hallways and exits for compliance with the fire and Life Safety codes. The University uses Occupational Safety and Health Regulations and recommendations of the NFPA Life Safety Code as minimum standards to be attained. The State Department of Insurance may also impose requirements as a condition for providing insurance on campus buildings and equipment.

Obstructions to Means of Egress: No encumbrance of any kind shall be placed in front of or upon any fire escape, balcony, or other exit intended as a means of escape from a fire. No aisle, exit access, or stairway in any place of occupancy shall be obstructed with tables, show cases, or other obstructions so as to reduce its required width as an exit way during the hours the facility is open to the public. All exit doors shall be unlocked when the building or a portion of the building served by the exit is occupied.

Hallways: Storage of any kind, or use of laboratory or office equipment in hallways is not permitted. Normally, only water fountains, fire protection equipment, and safety equipment will be installed in hallways.Permanently attached lockers, bulletin boards, display cabinets, etc., may be permitted in some locations, subject to approval of the University Safety Officer. Transparent covers on bulletin boards and display cabinets must be safety glass or other non splintering material.

Stairwells and Landings: Storage of materials on stairs, landings, or under stairs is strictly forbidden. Items found in these locations will be removed.

Doors: Fire doors separating stairwells from hallways and smoke partition doors are equipped with self closing mechanisms or automatic release hold open devices and must be maintained in working order, i.e., not blocked, wedged or tied open.

Lighting of Exit Ways: Stairways, hallways, and other exit ways including the exterior open spaces to or through which exit ways lead, shall be kept adequately lighted at all times when the building served thereby is occupied.

Adequate lighting shall provide not less than 1.0 foot candle on walking surfaces.

Turnstiles and Similar Devices: Turnstiles and similar devices, used to restrict travel in one direction or to collect fares or admission charges, etc., shall not be installed without prior approval of the Safety Office.

Railings, Steps, and Walks: The area immediately outside of building exits shall be maintained free of material at all times.

Bicycles and Scooters: Bicycles, scooters, or other forms of motorized transportation are not permitted in building hallways, stairwells, or on sidewalks immediately adjacent to exits.  This does not include motorized wheelchairs or other ADA vehicles.  

This section applies to gatherings of 50 or more persons for such activities as entertainment, dining, amusement, lectures, seminars, etc. and to libraries, museums and art galleries with more than 50 persons.  The purpose of the section is to establish criteria for emergency planning and fire prevention practices to be employed by university departments responsible for public assembly events.

Emergency Planning

University departments sponsoring public assembly events with 100 or more persons in attendance shall develop an emergency evacuation plan which includes the following information:

  • Emergency telephone numbers.
  • The location of all fire exits.
  • The location of fire extinguishers.
  • The duties of attendants, technicians, PA announcers, stage managers, etc.
  • The wording of emergency instructions given over the PA system and the specific person designated to make the announcements.

The emergency plan should be approved by the Safety Officer and reviewed with all employees and attendants prior to the event.

Open Flame Devices/Pyrotechnics

No open flame devices or pyrotechnics are to be used for ceremonies, theatrical performances, and the like, without prior approval from the Safety Officer. Pyrotechnics generally require a licensed supervisor.

Food Service Devices

Portable cooking devices not flue connected are to be used only with prior approval from the Safety Officer. Candles may be used on tables for food services if securely supported on substantial non combustible bases located in such a way as to avoid a danger of ignition of combustible materials. Candle flames must be protected.

Flammable Liquids

The storage or use of flammable liquids in assembly areas is prohibited.

Decorations and Stage Scenery

Combustible materials must be treated with an effective flame retardant materials. Stage settings made of combustible materials must likewise be treated with flame retardant materials as indicated below:

  • Plywood, wood, particle board, and like material used for stage settings or decorations must be UL listed with a flame spread of 75 or less (class B) or be painted with fire retardant paint.
  • Fabrics such as draperies and curtains must be flame treated or non-combustible or must not exceed 10% of the wall or ceiling area.
  • Plastics must not exceed 10% of the wall or ceiling area. Pyroxylin plastics are prohibited.
  • Foam plastic panels must be UL listed and approved by the Safety Officer.
  • Cardboard should be painted with fire retardant paint or must not exceed 10% of the wall/ceiling area.
  • Carpet must meet Federal Flammability Standards.  Carpet installed on walls or ceilings must have a flame spread of 25 or less.
  • Bales of hay or cotton, sawdust etc. and other highly combustible materials are prohibited unless approved by the Safety Officer.

Christmas Trees

Natural cut trees are prohibited in assembly locations unless the area is provided with a sprinkler system.


Non-fixed seating arrangements for gatherings of 100 or more persons require prior approval by the Safety Officer. Any increase in the seating capacity of assembly rooms with fixed seats requires approval from the Safety Officer.

Maintenance of Exit Ways

Aisles, passageways, and stairways must not be obstructed or restricted by tables, showcases, or other objects. All exit doors must remain unlocked during assembly to permit evacuation.

The provisions of this policy apply to the selection, distribution, inspection, maintenance and testing of portable extinguishing equipment. The requirements given herein are minimums. Portable extinguishers are intended as a first line of defense to cope with fires of limited size. They are needed even when a facility is equipped with automatic sprinklers, standpipe and hose, or other fixed protection equipment. Only those personnel who have been trained may use extinguishers.


The basic types of fires are Classes 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 in 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.

Classification and Ratings of Fire Extinguishers

Portable fire extinguishers are classified for use on certain types of fires and rated by testing laboratories for relative extinguishing effectiveness. The classification and rating are based upon the preceding classification of fires and the fire-extinguishing potential as determined by fire tests.

Selection of Extinguishers

The selection of extinguishers for a given situation is determined by the character of the fires anticipated.

Distribution of Extinguishers

Fire extinguishers shall be provided for the protection of the building and for the occupancy hazard contained therein:

  • Required building protection shall be provided by fire extinguishers suitable for Class A fires.
  • Protection against occupancy hazard shall be provided by fire extinguishers suitable for such Class A, B, C, or D fire potentials as may be present.

Mounting Locations

Extinguishers shall be conspicuously located where they will be readily accessible in the event of fire. They shall be located along normal paths of travel, including exits from an area.


Extinguishers needing to be recharged due to use or pressure leakage will be recharged by the Safety Officer at no cost to the department to which the extinguisher was assigned.

Exception: Receipt supported departments (Housing, Food Service, etc.)


Extinguishers are checked monthly by maintenance personnel and annually by the Safety Officer.

New Buildings

The Safety Officer will review plans and determine the types and number of fire extinguishers required for new buildings. The purchase of fire extinguishers and fire hoses for new buildings will normally be funded from the movable equipment allocation of the Capital Improvements budget for the new building. The building's using department must reserve sufficient funds in the movable equipment account to cover all costs of initial outfitting for fire extinguishers. The Safety Officer will designate the locations where extinguishers are to be installed.


Each department will be responsible for funding additional extinguishers required by changes in the type of occupancy (e.g., conversion of space from office to laboratory). The Safety Officer will determine the type and location of extinguishers and will install them on request.

Extinguisher Loss Due to Damage or Theft

It is the responsibility of the using department to institute security measures to prevent losses due to theft. Replacement cost for extinguishers in Housing buildings, Auxiliary Service areas and assigned rooms will be charged to the department. Replacement of extinguishers in other public areas will be charged to the Facilities Management.

It is the policy of the University to use the recommendations contained in the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Codes as minimum guidelines to acceptable practices on Campus. A number of the NFPA Codes have been incorporated into the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) Standards, the North Carolina State Building Code, or are mandated as a condition of insurance coverage by the North Carolina Department of Insurance. Questions regarding the applicability of specific NFPA Codes should be directed to the University Safety and Risk Management Office. The purpose of this policy statement is to list the basic standards for the storage and use of flammable and combustible liquids applicable to Campus operations. The standards listed here are by no means comprehensive but represent those cited most frequently during inspections of Campus facilities.

Laboratory/Shop Unit:
A laboratory or shop unit is defined as a room, or suite of rooms, separated from adjacent areas by fire resistant walls and doors.

Flash Point (F.P.): The minimum temperature at which a liquid gives off vapor in sufficient concentration to form an ignitable mixture in air.

Flammable Liquids: A flammable liquid is any liquid having a flash point below 100 degrees F (37.8 C). Flammable liquids are also known as Class I liquids and are subdivided into Class I A, Class I B, and Class I C according to flash point (F.P.) and boiling point (B.P.).
Class IA: F.P. below 73 degrees F (22.8 C) and B.P. below 100 degrees F (37.8 C)
Class IB: F.P. below 73 degrees F (22.8 C) and B.P. at or above 100 degrees F (37.8 C)
Class IC: F.P. at or above 73 degrees F (22.8 C) and below 100 degrees F (37.8 C)
Maximum Quantities for Class I Flammable Liquids:
The maximum container size is 1 gallon for glass or plastic, 1 gallon for metal Class IA, 5 gallon for metal Class IB and IC. Safety Can limit is 2 gallon for Class IA and 5 gallon for Class IB and IC. 
Maximum storage quantity allowed for open or shelf storage is 10 gallons (glass, plastic, metal) and 25 gallons for safety cans.
Maximum storage quantity in approved flammable cabinets (2 per unit) is 60 gallons.

Combustible Liquids: A combustible liquid is any liquid having a flash point at or above 100 degrees F, and is also known as a Class II or Class III liquid.
Class II: F.P. at or above 100 degrees F (37.8 C) and below 140 degrees F (60 C)
Class III A: F.P. at or above 140 degrees F (60 C) and below 200 degrees F (93 C)
Class III B: F.P. at or above 200 degrees F (93 C)
Maximum Quantities for Class II and III Liquids:
The maximum container size is 1 gallon for glass or plastic, 5 gallon for metal, and 5 gallon for safety can. 
Maximum storage quantity allowed for open or shelf storage is 10 gallons (glass, plastic, metal) and 25 gallons for safety cans.
Maximum storage quantity in approved flammable cabinets (2 per unit) is 60 gallons for Class II and 120 gallons for Class III. 

The maximum quantity of flammable and combustible liquids stored inside a storage room (meeting NFPA Code recommendations) is:
a) with sprinkler system 4-10 gal/ft2
b) without sprinkler system 2- 4 gal/ft2

University Guidelines

It should be emphasized that the quantity of flammables on hand must be kept to a minimum and that only in unusual circumstances will the maximum quantities be permitted. The following guidelines have been adopted by the University:

  • If a one-gallon quantity of one specific liquid represents more than a thirty-day supply of a Class IA or IB flammable, one-pint (IA) or one-quart (IB) shall be used.
  • Multiple cans and/or bottles of any one specific flammable will not be permitted in open storage or storage cabinet if it represents more than a thirty-day supply of that flammable.
  • Deviations from these guidelines may be granted in exceptional cases following approval by the University Safety Officer.

Approved Containers: Gasoline and other fuels must be stored and transported on campus in approved containers. The use of safety cans in laboratories is encouraged where practical.

Dispensing: Flammable liquids shall not be transferred between metal containers unless the containers are electrically interconnected by direct bonding or by indirect bonding through a common ground. The maximum impedance of the bond shall not exceed 6 ohms. Gasoline powered equipment must be refueled outdoors.

Storage Cabinets: Storage cabinets constructed to NFPA standards should be used when required to meet quantity limits. Storage cabinets are not permitted in hallways.

Inside Storage Rooms: A central storage room is preferable to storage cabinets in each laboratory. This central storage alternative should be considered especially by departments and schools which have centralized supply rooms.

Laboratory Refrigerators: Flammable liquids must not be stored in domestic type refrigerators. Domestic type refrigerators should not be purchased for laboratory use, even if flammable storage is not contemplated, since future research needs may require the use of flammables. Safety refrigerators, which have the electrical contacts (door switch, light, thermostat, etc.) removed or installed on the exterior, are recommended for laboratory use. "Explosion Proof" refrigerators are not recommended except in unusual circumstances, such as in an inside storage room (for flammables) or in potentially hazardous atmospheres. Domestic type refrigerators currently in laboratories should be labeled "DANGER/UNSAFE FOR STORAGE OF FLAMMABLES".

Warning Signs: Bunsen burners and other open flames must not be used in the area where flammable liquids are being used. The area must be posted "NO SMOKING" and containers are to be labeled "DANGER-FLAMMABLE KEEP AWAY FROM HEAT, SPARKS, AND OPEN FLAMES, KEEP CLOSED WHEN NOT IN USE."

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