A Fire Safe New Year's Resolution

Jan. 1, 2020

A New Year's resolution is a tradition in which a person resolves to change an undesired trait or behavior, accomplish a personal goal or otherwise improve their life.

The Princeton University Fire Marshal's office asks you to make a New Year’s Fire Safety resolution with us. These important steps, when made a part of your everyday routine, work to reduce the effects should a fire occur or, best yet, prevent the fire from occurring in the first place.

by Scott Loh, University Fire Marshal

1. Fire Extinguishers

Fire extinguishers cannot be obstructed or obscured from view, and must remain visible at all times. Fire extinguishers should be mounted to protect them from physical damage. Also, if you happen to notice the needle gauge is pointing in the red area rather than the green area, please notify the Fire Marshal’s office. When a fire strikes, we want these invaluable tools functioning properly!

2. Extension Cords

If you see one in use, please remove it. Extension cords are strictly prohibited from use in University buildings as permanent wiring. Should you need to use an extension cord on a permanent basis, you must contact Facilities to have the area of use inspected to determine if additional wall outlets can be installed to accommodate your needs. Extension cords cannot tolerate numerous electronic devices; they can become overloaded, resulting in fires. Extension cords must be replaced with UL rated surge protectors. 

3. Misuse of Surge Protectors

If you are using a surge protector, it must be plugged directly into a wall outlet and not into one another ("daisy chaining"). Do not plug surge protectors into extension cords to make up the distance to an outlet. Submit a work order to Facilities for a new outlet to be installed. Again, extension cords are meant for temporary use. An extension cord will not offer any protection if a surge occurs in the electrical line, but a surge protector will. Please use surge protectors.

4. Storage Too Close to the Ceiling

The fire code requires a 24-inch clearance between stored materials and the ceiling in non-sprinklered rooms. The 24-inch clearance allows firefighter hose streams to reach the top of burning materials and to project over and beyond to reach other burning materials. Rooms that are equipped with sprinklers must have an 18-inch clearance between the bottom of the sprinkler head and the stored materials. Materials stored too close to the sprinkler head will prevent heat from reaching the sprinkler’s fusible link and prevent water from reaching the seat of the fire once the sprinklers have been activated. 

5. Blocked Emergency Exits and Corridors

Keep emergency exits and corridors free of chairs, filing cabinets, small tables and miscellaneous storage that could cause people to trip. In the event of a fire, this is your pathway to safety. Fires can kill the power to a building. During a fire, the corridors can become smoky and dark; any blocked emergency exits or corridors may slow down the evacuation of the building and compromise your path to safety!

6. Electrical Panels

Most electrical panels will be located inside mechanical or custodial closets that normally have limited access; however, electrical panels need to have a clearance on all sides as well as clearance in front, so that they can be easily accessed to shut off electricity to various parts of the building in the event of a fire. Please keep all electrical panels free of obstruction. 

7. Door Chocks

Door chocks are not allowed on any stairwell or fire rated door(s). Fire doors serve to protect you in the event of a fire. Doors with a fire rating will indicate how long they are expected to hold up when exposed to a fire. If the door is chocked open, it has a fire rating of zero minutes and offers no protection! If you need to have a non-fire rated door held open by a door chock, please remove it once you complete your task or leave your office. Even if the door is not a fire door, it can help to limit the spread of fire and/or smoke.

8. Missing or Damaged Ceiling Tiles

Ceiling tiles serve to prevent fire and smoke from traveling through the ceiling shaft to other parts of the building. Often times, individuals performing work remove ceiling tiles without putting them back once the work is complete. Some ceiling tiles consist of fire rated material and must be replaced when damaged or removed. Please submit a work order to Facilities to have missing or damaged ceiling tiles replaced or contact the Fire Marshal’s office.

9. Illuminated Exit Signs

Exit signs must be illuminated at all times, including when the building is not fully occupied. If you should notice that an exit sign is not illuminated or is discolored, please submit a work order to Facilities or contact the Fire Marshal’s office. 

10. Storage of Combustible Materials

Miscellaneous combustible storage cannot be kept in any portion of a stairway or egress path. Storage of combustible materials is not allowed in any designated mechanical room. Combustible materials in storage must be separated from any heat source or electrical equipment to prevent possible ignition.

Fire safety is a shared responsibility amongst all campus members, so we ask that if you should discover any of these conditions, please notify the Fire Marshal’s office by emailing dpsfire@princeton.edu