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Environmental Health and Safety

Fire Safety Information

Understand how to respond if you're involved in a fire or if you see one.

If There's a Fire

SOUND THE ALARM. If you discover or suspect a fire, sound the building fire alarm. If there is no alarm in the building, warn the other occupants by knocking on doors and shouting as you leave.

LEAVE THE BUILDING. Try to rescue others only if you can do so safely. Move away from the building and out of the way of the fire department. Don’t go back into the building until the fire department says it is safe to do so.

CALL THE FIRE DEPARTMENT. Dial 7-9111 from a university office phone, or dial 777-9111 from your mobile phone to reach the USCPD. If you dial 911, tell the emergency operator that you are calling from USC. Give as much information as possible to the emergency dispatcher.

CRAWL, IF THERE’S SMOKE. If you get caught in smoke, get down and crawl. Cleaner, cooler air will be near the floor. Get Low – And Go.

FEEL DOORS BEFORE OPENING. Before opening any doors, feel the metal knob. If it is hot, don’t open the door. If it is cool, brace yourself against the door, open it slightly, and if heat or heavy smoke are present, close the door and stay in the room.

GO TO THE NEAREST EXIT OR STAIRWAY. If the nearest exit is blocked by fire, heat or smoke, go to another exit.

Always use an exit stair – not an elevator. Elevator shafts may fill with smoke or the power may fail, leaving you trapped. Stairway fire doors will keep out fire and smoke — if they are closed — and will protect you until you get outside. If you become disabled and can’t maneuver the stairs, get to a stairwell and call for help. The stairwells are fire rated and will provide some protection until the first responders arrive.

Close as many doors as possible as you leave. This helps to confine the fire.

Total and immediate evacuation is safest. Only use a fire extinguisher if the fire is very small and you know how to do it safely. If you can’t put out the fire, leave immediately. Make sure the fire department is called — even if you think the fire is out.

KEEP THE DOORS CLOSED. Seal cracks and vents. if smoke comes in. If you’re trapped in a room and there’s no smoke outside, open the windows from the top to let out the heat and smoke, and from the bottom to let in fresh air.

SIGNAL FOR HELP. Hang an object at the window (a bed sheet, jacket, shirt) to attract the fire department’s attention. If there is a phone in the room, call the fire department and report that you are trapped. Be sure to give your room number and location.

SOMETIMES IT’S SAFER TO STAY IN PLACE! If all exits from a floor are blocked, go back to your room, close the door, seal cracks, open the windows, if safe, wave something at the window and shout or phone for help.


STOP, DROP, AND ROLL. If your clothes catch on fire, stop, drop and roll, wherever you are. Rolling smothers the fire.

COOL BURNS. Use cool tap water on burns, immediately. Don’t use ointments. If skin is blistered, dead white, brown or charred, call for an ambulance.

SMOKE CAREFULLY. If you smoke, don’t smoke in bed or near flammable materials. Use large ashtrays and be sure ashes, matches and cigarette ends are cold before you dump them. Don’t smoke while intoxicated.

COOK IN APPROVED AREAS OR KITCHENS AND USE LABORATORY TESTED APPLIANCES. Stay nearby while appliances are on. Clean up grease and appliances as soon as possible.

BE CAREFUL WITH ELECTRICITY. Use only laboratory tested appliances. Don’t overload outlets. Replace damaged wires.

HELP ELIMINATE CAMPUS FIRE HAZARDS. Use of electrical “octopuses” to obtain more outlets can result in overloaded circuits and fire. Replace damaged wires and remember to match your appliance power requirements to the circuit power. Most electrical circuits only supply 15 or 20 amps per room for all the outlets.

APPLIANCES. Percolators, irons, space heaters, etc. should never be left unattended. They should be unplugged after use and not be stored until they are cool enough to touch. Space heaters should always be kept away from curtains, furniture and any combustible material.

OPEN FLAMES. Any source of open flame, such as bunsen burners or barbeque grills, should never be left unattended. Extinguish all open flames, even if left for a very short time. Candles are not allowed to be used in any dorm.

HAZARDOUS STORAGE. Dispose of all waste as soon as possible. Surplus material and paper recycling containers should be stored in a safe place, not in corridors, stairs or exit ways.

FLAMMABLE LIQUIDS. Gasoline, kerosene, ether, paint, glue, etc. may not be stored in residential buildings. In laboratories, shops and classrooms, storage of flammable liquids is limited to specific quantities and approved containers.

OBSTACLES. Storage of bicycles, chairs, desks and other items is prohibited in all exit ways. Blocked exits have caused “chain reaction” pile-ups of fallen people during emergencies.

PARTICIPATE IN FIRE DRILLS. Fire drills are conducted to familiarize you with the sound of your building’s fire alarm, the emergency exits which you may not normally use and the procedure for calling the fire department. Learn where other exits are — now. Participation in these drills is MANDATORY. It is a violation of State Law to refuse to participate.

IF YOU ARE DISABLED (even temporarily), you should do the following:

  • Learn about fire safety
  • Plan ahead for fire emergencies
  • Be aware of your own capabilities and limitations

On campus, the staff notifies the fire department of residents with disabilities to help them find you. Look for “areas of refuge”, like stair enclosures or the other side of corridor fire doors. Most elevators are designed to stop operating when the alarm is sounding and are not safe during fires. Sometimes it may be safer to stay in your room. Follow the advice for being trapped.

IF YOU USE ALCOHOL OR DRUGS, you are especially vulnerable to smoke asphyxiation. Even young healthy people may not be able to escape a fire if they are intoxicated. They may not hear the smoke alarm or be able to find an exit. Take special care of anyone who becomes intoxicated, particularly if the person is a smoker. Let the fire department know if you think someone hasn’t evacuated the building.

  • Fire Doors – Should close completely and automatically.
  • Exit Signs – Two exits should be visible from all public areas.
  • Fire Alarms – Horns, bells and pull stations should be accessible and not vandalized.
  • Sprinklers – Keep 18″ clearance around heads. Report bent or damaged heads.
  • Smoke Detectors – Keep them clear so they can detect smoke when you are asleep, and wake you in time to get out.
  • Fire Extinguishers – Report empty or vandalized extinguishers.

For information or to bring any deficiencies in fire protection and safety equipment to the attention of Environmental Health and Safety, call 777-5269. Fire Safety classes can also be requested through this office.

  • There is a reward for information leading to the arrest of an arsonist.
  • Causing a false alarm is a crime punishable by a fine of $5,000 and five years imprisonment. It also results in occupants disregarding mandatory fire drills and true evacuation/fire alarms which may cause loss of life.
  • Vandalism of fire extinguishers, exit signs and fire alarms robs you of your fire protection and is punishable by fines and jail time.
  • Any student responsible for these crimes can be expelled from the university, in addition to criminal prosecution. A conviction could prevent your acceptance to graduate or professional school.

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.