Fire Safety

Fire Safety is responsible for:

  • Conducting fire and life safety inspections,
  • Planning, monitoring and evaluating fire evacuation drills,
  • Maintaining fire detection and suppression systems,
  • Developing fire protection and prevention policies and
  • Conducting fire safety training.

We are also responsible for providing professional services such as:

  • Incident investigation,
  • Risk analysis,
  • Building plan review and
  • Regulatory code compliance.

On our site you will find useful information regarding seasonal fire safety tips, training opportunities for staff and students, evacuation guidelines, University Fire Safety statistics as well as applications forms and permits for fire safety related programs.


General Fire Safety

It is of the utmost importance to be aware of conditions that may cause a fire emergency and thereby endanger the safety of occupants in the workplace. The major causes of fire in the workplace include overloaded electrical outlets and extension cords, misuse of space heaters, mishandling of flammables, improper storage of combustibles, and improper disposal of smoking materials on campus grounds. Implementing fire prevention measures is the key in an attempt to insure one’s personal safety and the safety of others.

The most important thing to remember is that fire occurs when three things come together at the same time: fuel, oxygen, and an ignition source. The primary method to prevent fires is to keep these elements apart as much as possible.

Prevention Measures You Can Take

  • Know how to report a fire.
  • Know how to get to your closest exit.
  • Regularly observe emergency evacuation routes, fire extinguishers and emergency and exit lights. Immediately report any missing equipment or any other problems discovered to Public Safety 610-436-3311.
  • Regularly observe corridors and stairwells, and keep them clear of obstructions.
  • Regularly observe all exits to keep them clear of obstructions AT ALL TIMES.
  • Report any tampering with the fire alarm, smoke detection and suppression systems to Public Safety 610-436-3311.
  • Forbid Athletic activity inside which could cause harm or disruption to residents and building facilities/fire protection systems (i.e. throwing, kicking or bouncing balls, playing hockey, etc).
  • Regularly observe fire doors to make certain they are closed at all times; report inoperable doors
  • Forbid the use of candles or any other open-flame devices for any purpose in university buildings.
  • Respect the "No Smoking" policy in all facilities.
  • Enforce all safety regulations. If there are questions, contact EHS 610-436-3315


General Storage & Housekeeping

One of the primary causes of workplace fires is haphazard storage and poor housekeeping practices. Combustible materials should never be stored or used in close proximity to ignition sources, and should never be placed in exit paths or corridors.

Storage should:

  • Be on secure and sound shelving or in separate storage rooms.
  • Never be stacked within two feet of ceilings.
  • Never obstruct fire sprinklers – must be at least 18” away.
  • Not be placed in exit corridors or exit enclosures.
  • Not be placed in boiler rooms, mechanical rooms or electrical equipment rooms.
  • Not be placed in attics, in under floor spaces, or in concealed spaces unless such areas are protected by one (1) hour fire resistive construction or fire sprinkler system.

All work spaces should be kept orderly and free from excessive combustible waste materials.


Exits and Corridors

In an emergency, corridors must allow for rapid movement of people to evacuate safely. Reduced widths or obstructions can become an impediment.

Fire doors are installed to protect occupants using exits and corridors from fire and smoke during a fire. It is critical that they operate properly and are closed at all times. Fire doors are identified by signage, and all stairway doors are fire doors.

Lighted EXIT signs are installed throughout buildings to identify exits for emergency evacuation. These signs are illuminated and will operate from emergency power if building electrical systems fail.

What you can do:

  • Don't obstruct or block exit doors or exit signage!
  • It is important to not place anything within the exit path or anywhere that it might reduce the width of doorways or corridors. Never place anything in corridors without specific approval. 
  • Never block open a fire door or place any object nearby that might interfere with the door closing properly. If doors are discovered to be damaged, or if they do not close properly, contact Facilities immediately for repair.

EXIT signs should never be covered or obstructed in order to be available during an emergency. If signs appear damaged, or if they are not illuminated, contact Facilities immediately for repair.

Keys to Preventing Fires and Fire Alarms


Know where the nearest fire extinguisher is, and how to use it.

Never have prohibited items that are known fire hazards:

  • Candles
  • Incense
  • Halogen Lights
  • Wax Warmers/Burners

In the Kitchen

  • Turn on the overhead hood fan to help dissipate smoke or steam
  • Never leave the stove unattended when cooking
  • Keep stove top clean and clear of combustible items. 
  • Have a lid nearby to extinguish grease fires
  • Identify where the Fire Extinguisher is and keep it handy whenever cooking

In the Bathroom

  • Use hairspray and other aerosols in well ventilated areas
  • Use overhead fans whenever utilizing aerosols or flat irons
  • Avoid steam build up by turning on the bathroom exhaust fan



In Case of Fire

If you discover smoke or flame, immediately initiate the following actions:

  • Activate the fire alarm system by pulling a manual pull station or verbally notify the building’s occupants of the fire if the alarm system is not functioning.
  • Evacuate from the building and report to the Designated Meeting Location and await further instruction from a Public Safety representative.
  • Even if the fire alarm system has already been activated, (at safe distance from the fire) contact the Public Safety Department at 610-436-3311 to report the fire. 

Occupants that cannot evacuate the building without assistance should proceed to the closest Area of Rescue Assistance if possible

  • After arriving at the Area of rescue Assistance, contact Public Safety at (610) 436-3311 to advise them of your location
  • If getting to the Area of Rescue Assistance is not possible, stay in your room with the door closed. Contact Public Safety at (610) 436-3311 and let the dispatcher know your location 

Evacuation by Fire Alarm

When it is necessary to evacuate a building due to a fire alarm or other emergency, it is critical that all occupants are able to do so in a timely manner. This requires a clear and unobstructed path to the building exterior and a plan known and executed by all occupants.

All university employees and students should be aware of emergency evacuation procedures. Environmental Health and Safety has developed general emergency evacuation procedures, and each department should supplement these procedures with department-specific information. These procedures should be posted in every department and distributed to all building occupants. A number of building specific plans are also available for review. 

When the building fire evacuation alarm sounds

  • All occupants are required to evacuate immediately
  • Use the closest available exit point
  • Evacuations should be calm and orderly

When evacuating the building

  • Only take essential belongings
    • Keys, WCU ID, wallets, purses, coats, medications, etc. 
  • Turn off lights
  • Close the doors 

While evacuating remind others to leave the building and ask if they need assistance

  • If you can’t assist or they are unwilling to leave,  continue evacuating and notify Public Safety
  • Proceed to the Designated Meeting Location and stay there
  • Staff will assist occupants with re-entry into the building when directed by Public Safety

Evacuation Plans (PDF)

Emergency Evacuation Guidelines for Persons Needing Assistance

Persons who are unable to evacuate without assistance  are encouraged to contact Human Resources and/or the Office of Services for Students with Disabilities to determine what accommodations that may be necessary to maintain safety.  These needs may vary on a case-by-case basis and by individual and location.

Environmental Health and Safety can help anyone develop a personal emergency evacuation plan. 

Emergency Evacuation

Ground Floor

  • Exit by normal means as quickly as possible

Above or Below Ground Floor

  • Do not use the Elevators
  • Relocate or be moved to a designated Area of Rescue Assistance
  • Most of the Areas of Rescue Assistance can be found in enclosed stairwells. 
  • Notify the Department of Public Safety at (610) 436-3311 or extension 3311 of your location
    • If you are unable to contact DPS, have someone else notify them of your location
    • Wait for first responders to arrive and remain calm
  • Members of the Department of Public Safety or members of the West Chester Fire Department will assist you from the building.

Area of Rescue Assistance

  • An area which has direct access to an exit, where people who are unable to use stairs may remain temporarily in safety to await further instructions or assistance during emergency evacuation.

Fire Drills

In compliance with state regulations, fire drills are conducted at varying times  in all residence halls and apartments. The participation of ALL occupants of on-campus housing is required. Please follow these procedures:

  • Become familiar with the fire exits nearest your room and the evacuation plans posted on each floor of your building. Generally speaking, you should use the closest fire exit to your room, but you should also be aware of a secondary exit in the event your primary exit becomes unusable.
    • Residence Hall occupants should use the outer stair exits as their primary exits when the fire alarm is active.  This will reduce overcrowding in the center stairs.
  • When evacuating the building, only take essential belongings. This includes items such as keys, WCU ID, wallets, purses, coats, medications, etc. 
  • When evacuating the building, remember to turn off lights and close doors to rooms as you leave.
  • Exit the building swiftly. Do not run, but walk briskly to the nearest exit. Remain calm.
  • After exiting the building, report to your pre-designated meeting location (determined at the beginning of each school year). Apartment residents cannot remain in any external stairwells or complex courtyards.
  • DO NOT leave your meeting location or re-enter your residence hall unless instructed to do so by university officials.
  • DO NOT use the elevators.

Prohibited items

Firearms, Weapons, and Hazardous Materials

Possession, storage, and/or use of the items below are prohibited in all rooms/apartments:

  • Firearms (including but not limited to: air rifles, air soft guns, paint ball guns, pellet guns, pistols, ammunition, gunpowder)
  • Dangerous Weapons (including but limited to: clubs, knives not intended for kitchen use, swords, martial arts weapons, bows & arrows, etc.)
  • Stun guns and tasers
  • Explosives of any kind, including fireworks and sparklers
  • Hazardous substances (including but not limited to: gasoline and other flammable-combustible liquids, solvents, degreasers, lab chemicals, mercury, acids, and alkaline materials, etc.)
  • Other dangerous materials (such as automobile batteries) or other potentially lethal devices that explode or deflagrate and can propel projectiles
  • Any weapon not listed

It is also a violation of this policy to use an item with a lawful purpose (i.e. scissors, baseball bat) in act or threat of violence.


Appliances and Equipment

Possession, storage, and/or use of the items below are prohibited in all rooms/apartments:

  • Extension cords, outlet adapters, and splitters. Note that surge protectors are allowed and encouraged, but they should never be overloaded, nor used in tandem
  • Halogen Bulbs
  • Air Conditioners except where provided by Residential Services
  • All large appliances (including but not limited to: non-University stoves, washer and dryers, dish washers, etc.)
  • Space Heaters except in situations where they've been installed or approved by Facilities Staff
  • Power tools such as saws, drills, drill presses, and jack hammers (unless used by Facilities staff)
  • Water filled devices like pools of any size, hot tubs, or water beds
  • Gas grills
  • Smoke/fog machines
  • Refrigerators over 3.6 cubic feet
  • Microwaves over 1000 Watts or .7 cubic feet
    • Microwaves under 1000 Watts or .7 cubic feet must be connected to the University provided Smoke Sensor

These items are prohibited in all non-kitchen units:

  • Toasters
  • Toaster Ovens
  • Instant Cookers (like Instant pots)
  • Countertop Grills such as panini makers, George Foreman grills, sandwich makers
  • Electric Skillets and Kettles
  • Hot Plates
  • Waffle Irons
  • Popcorn Poppers
  • Convection Ovens, Air Fryers, and Oil Fryers
  • Any items with an exposed heat producing source or element (i.e. immersion coil)

All appliances must have a manufacturer's label that shows the electrical ratings and listing by a nationally recognized testing laboratory (e.g., ETL, UL, etc.) .


Candles, Open Flames, and Flammable Items

Possession, storage, and/or use of candles, incense, incendiary devices, and fire producing items (including but not limited to: fuel burning stoves, fuel burning lamps, heaters, grills, torches, charcoal, lighter fluid, and propane cylinders) are prohibited. Residents are allowed, however, to possess matches and small cigarette lighters.

Holiday decorations, such as cut trees, wreaths, straw, hay, palm fronds, vines, branches, and other live decorations are also not permitted. 



What fire safety measures are in place in the RESIDENCE Life Buildings?

Every residence facility is monitored by a Simplex 4100ES addressable fire alarm system, which reports all system conditions to the Department of Public Safety. Smoke detectors are a part of the fire alarm system, with smoke detectors and a sounder bases in each sleeping room. The system also includes strobe light units to notify students who are hearing impaired. An alarm prompts immediate evacuation of the building. The system also self-tests for tampering and reduces the chance for false alarms. Emergency generators are provided for backup lighting, which also provides backup power to the fire alarm system.  Battery backup is also a part of the fire alarm system, assuring these systems will function even in a long-term power outage. All residence halls and apartments are equipped with fire sprinkler systems. Fire extinguishers are located in all campus buildings and residence halls and are inspected monthly. Fire hydrants are located outside each residence hall. Environmental Health and Safety conducts monthly building inspections of every campus facility.

Fire drills are conducted a minimum of two times each semester in all residence halls. Students who fail to evacuate as required are referred to the university judicial system.

Allegheny Hall, Brandywine Hall, Commonwealth Hall, University Hall, and Village apartment complexes are owned, controlled and maintained by University Student Housing (USH).  They are all equipped with Simplex 4100ES addressable fire alarm systems, which report all system conditions to the Department of Public Safety. The system includes strobe light units to notify students who are hearing impaired. An alarm prompts immediate evacuation of the building. All USH properties are equipped with fire sprinkler systems and fire extinguishers. 


Fire Detection and Protection Systems

Fire Alarms Systems

Almost every West Chester University building has a fire alarm system. A fire alarm system consists of the following components:

Fire Alarm Control Panel (FACP)

      • Initiation Devices (Smoke Detectors, Heat Detectors, Pull Stations, etc.)
      • Notification Devices (Bells, Horns, Strobes, etc.)
      • When an initiation device is activated, the FACP switches on the notification devices to alert the building occupants.

All of the fire alarm panels on the campus are part of a large computer network. The network command center is located at the Department of Public Safety. The network command center monitors all of the FACP's on the campus and reports alarms directly to the DPS Communications Center.  

When an alarm occurs in a university building, the DPS Communications Center will be notified. A computer screen at the DPS Communications Center will display the name of the building along with other pertinent information about the location of the alarm. DPS Communications Center then notifies the West Chester University Police (WCUPD), West Chester University Security, and West Chester Fire Department.  


Fire Sprinkler Systems

Henry S. Parmalee invented fire sprinklers in 1874 to protect his piano factory. Fire sprinklers today utilize the same basic principles. Sprinkler heads are distributed throughout a building in a manner dictated by the fire codes. The sprinklers are connected to a system of pipes filled with pressurized water.

Sprinklers are rated at specific temperatures. When the heat of a fire reaches the operating temperature of the sprinkler, the heat destroys a heat sensitive device on the sprinkler, allowing the water to escape. The pressurized water then sprays directly over the heat source.

Sprinkler systems can communicate with the fire alarm system with a device called a flow switch. When water flows through sprinkler pipes, it is usually because a sprinkler has been activated. The flow switch senses the water flowing through the pipe and activates the fire alarm system. All Residence Life Buildings and most Academic buildings at West Chester University have sprinkler systems. All sprinklers systems on Campus are visually inspected monthly and are tested quarterly. 


Portable Fire Extinguishers

When should you attempt to fight a fire with a portable fire extinguisher?

    • If you are trained
    • If you are capable
    • If you are willing
    • If you know what's burning
    • If an appropriate, fully charged, fire extinguisher is available
    • If the fire has already been reported
    • If you can fight the fire safely
    • If you have a clear exit path behind you

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) standard #10 establishes the criteria for portable fire extinguishers. NFPA categorizes fires as follows:

    • Class A Fires – Fires involving ordinary combustibles such as paper, wood, cotton, and certain plastics.
    • Class B Fires – Fires involving flammable liquids.
    • Class C Fires – Fires involving energized electrical equipment
    • Class D Fires – Fires involving combustible metals such as magnesium, sodium and aluminum. 
    • Class K Fires – Fires involving combustible liquids specifically cooking oils.

There are five basic types of portable fire extinguishers, each is designed to extinguish a specific type of fire, A, B, C, D or K. The type of fire that an extinguisher is designed to suppress is listed on the label of the extinguisher. Newer fire extinguishers also use pictures on their labels to show what kinds of fires they are effective on.

Many extinguishers have multiclass ratings. An extinguisher rated ABC is designed to suppress A, B, and C fires. Besides the alphabetical rating, Class A and Class B portable fire extinguishers also have a numerical rating. This numerical rating describes the extinguishing potential of a given size extinguisher.

Most of the portable fire extinguishers found on the campus are rated ABC and contain a dry chemical fire extinguishing agent. Some of the laboratories on campus have extinguishers rated BC and may contain carbon dioxide as the extinguishing agent.

Fighting a fire with a portable fire extinguisher is NOT required. If you choose to fight a fire with a portable fire extinguisher, remember the following steps:

    • Call 9-1-1 or activate a fire alarm pull station.
    • Grab the fire extinguisher.
    • Remember P.A.S.S.
      • P - Pull the pin on the extinguisher handle.
      • A - Aim the nozzle towards the base of the flame.
      • S - Squeeze the handle to discharge the extinguishing agent.
      • S - Sweep the nozzle back and forth at the base of the fire.

Members of the WCU-EHS staff are available to provide fire safety hands-on training and informational seminars for any group interested in learning more on how to stay "Fire Safe." Contact the Office of Fire Safety (610-436-3315) for more information. Visit the Fire Extinguisher Training website for information on the use of portable fire extinguishers.



Fire Safety Training

Members of the WCU-EHS staff are available to provide fire safety hands-on training and informational seminars for any group interested in learning more on how to stay "Fire Safe." Contact the Office of Fire Safety (610-436-3315) for more information.



When should I pull the fire alarm?

  • If you see or smell smoke or see a fire in a building, you should pull the fire alarm. As you are evacuating pull the nearest alarm. This will send a signal to the fire alarm panel indicating that area and allowing the first responders to more efficiently find that area. Once safely outside of the building, call Public Safety 610-436-3311 and report the conditions you found. 

When can you use an Emergency Exit? 

  • Anytime when conditions inside pose a threat to the health and safety and leaving the facility is safer than remaining inside of it. The Fire Alarm actively sounding is considered an Emergency and you should leave the through the nearest exit.

What is delayed egress hardware?

  • Delayed egress hardware (CHEXIT) prevents a door from being opened from the egress side, usually for a period of 15 seconds. This type of device is often used to prevent theft or elopement, while maintaining life safety. The delayed egress hardware (CHEXIT) can be integrated into a buildings fire alarm system and will release immediately when an alarm condition exists. 
  • To operate Delayed egress hardware (CHEXIT) when the fire alarm is not active: PUSH UNTIL DOOR ALARM SOUNDS. DOOR CAN BE OPENED IN 15 SECONDS.

What are the most common causes of fire alarms? 

  • Cooking: Most often food is left unattended which causes the food to burn. All cooking must be attended whether if it’s being done on a stove, in an oven or in a microwave. Do not use high flames when cooking as it caused food to burn. Be aware of smoke conditions and make sure exhaust fans are on and windows are open. Check oven before turning on, as left overs or a dirty oven can create a smoke condition. Electric steam kettles are another source of fire alarms, do not use in your room and do not operate under a smoke detector.
  • Hair care equipment: Hair curlers, hair dryers, hair straighteners and even hair spray are the second most common cause of alarms. These items produce hot steam, burning odors, blow dust, and create vapors that can activate an alarm. When using these devices, look up and make sure you are not operating under a smoke detector.
  • Electrical fires: Many fires occur due to overloading electrical outlets and circuits. Only use the proper UL rated surge protectors. Do not use extension cords. Plug refrigerators, AC units and other large electrical appliances directly into an outlet. Turn off all appliances when finished using. Do not place any electrical equipment near water.

What type of holiday decorations are allowed in University facilities?

  • The University does not allow natural vegetation, such as trees, wreaths, and hay bales. All lighting and other electrical equipment must be UL listed and in good working condition. No items are to be hung from the ceiling in corridors. Exit signs, emergency lighting, extinguishers and sprinkler heads must remain visible and accessible. Lit candles are also prohibited.

Why can’t I prop open our stairwell door?

  • Stairwell doors are designed to be in the closed position. Stairwell doors provided a smoke and fire barrier. The stairwell door has a fire rating which protects the stairwell, as long as the doors are shut. The stairwell will act like a chimney if smoke enters, allowing the smoke to travel vertically to the upper floor. At no time should wooden chocks, brick, or other items be used to prop open a stairwell door.

Is it okay to leave my room door chocked open?

  • No. All room and stairway doors should never be chocked or held open.  Open doors allow fire to spread rapidly.  Doors must be kept closed to confine a fire so occupants can get out safety.

What are Fire Doors and what do they do?

  • Fire doors are a critical part of the buildings fire protection system. Fire doors, when properly closed, prevent the spread of smoke, heat and fire. Stairway exit doors are fire doors as well as doors to dormitory rooms. If a door self closes, consider it a fire door. It’s a violation of Fire Code to leave or choke fire doors open. One of the most important action to take if there is a fire in your building, is to close doors as you exit.

Is it okay to store some of my items in the hallway or stairwells?

  • No, storage is prohibited in hallways and stairwells. These areas must be kept clear at all times. In case of a fire or emergency, the corridors and stairways provide the means of egress to get out of the building safely.

Why do we have go to the Designated Meeting Area?

  • Walking to the Designated Meeting Area does a lot to improve safety for everyone.
    1. By clearing the exit discharge and getting away from the building you allow for everyone behind you space to exit. 
    2. It gets you gets away from collapse zones.
    3. It get you out of the way of First Responders and gives them to room to work.
      • Most extra wide sidewalks also serve as Emergency Access Roads for First Responders
    4. It allows for everyone to be accounted for in one location.

What will set a sprinkler head off?

  • Sprinkler heads are designed so that at a specific temperature the glass bulb of the sprinkler head with break and allow the water to flow out of the head. Although they are designed to go off for this reason, sometimes bumping them will break the glass as well. The glass component is fragile. When working near the heads, keep a close eye on moving around them. A simple bump could be enough to set them off. Unlike the movies, only the sprinkler head activated will go off, not an entire room.

What can I do to improve fire safety in my area?

  • There are simple things such as ensuring your corridors and exit are not obstructed, knowing your evacuation routes, knowing how to use the fire extinguishers and their location, and knowing the location of your nearest pull station, that can improve the safety of your work area. If you see a problem, say something to your supervisor or RA.













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