Residence Hall Fire Safety

Clip Art Building

This step-by-step guide will tell you...

  • What to do when you move into your room
  • What to do if there is a fire or evacuation emergency

General Fire Emergency Preparation

Be Prepared

Itís important to know the layout of your room because you may have to stay in it if smoke in the corridor impairs your escape.

  • Begin by putting your room key close to where you sleep so you can find it easily. You will need it to get back into your room. You may want to keep it in your pants pocket or on the night stand.
  • Try the windows. Do they open? How do the latches work? (note: windows in some residential buildings are not intended as an alternate means of egress. Confer with your resident director or other person for information on about your building).


Check The Exits

hallway (clip art)

Surviving a residence hall fire begins right after you move in. When you get to your room, take a few moments to check out possible escape routes. Exit routes signs are posted on the door of residence halls.

  • Walk down the corridor and find the fire exits. Remember, never use the elevator in a fire. The elevators are programmed to automatically be recalled to the ground floor and will not function without fire department personnel.
  • Check the exits out to make sure they are useable! Do the doors open? Are the stairways clear?
  • Count the doorways and any other features between your room and the exits. If the corridor is dark and full of smoke, you will need to know your way as you crawl along the wall to the exit.
  • All UW residence halls have a fire alarm system. Find the nearest fire alarm pull station. Be sure you know how to use it. You may have to activate it in the dark or dense smoke.

Persons needing evacuation assistance can find more information at Emergency Evacuation for Persons with Disabilities .


Building Emergency Procedures

checking door for heat

If your room door is hot or smoke is dense in the hall...Don’t Panic! You can stay in your room and still survive a fire. Here are some things you should do:

  • Seal cracks around doors and vents with towels or clothing.
  • Report the fire by dialing 911.
  • If there is no smoke outside your window, hang a sheet or light-colored clothing out the window to alert rescue personnel that you are in the room waiting for help.
  • If there is smoke outside your window, make yourself visible to firefighters by waving a light-colored object while standing at the window.
  • If smoke enters your room, close the window and tie a folded cloth over your nose and mouth.

If the room door is cool, slowly open the door, take your room key, close the door and:

  • Walk, or crawl if the hall is smoky, to the closest exit and proceed to the street.
  • Report the fire by dialing 911.

If exiting down is not safe, return to your room and follow the procedures for a hot door.

Remember that few people are burned to death in fires. Most people die from smoke, poisonous gases and panic.

Panic is usually the result of not knowing what to do. If you have an escape plan and adapt it to the emergency, you can greatly increase your chances of survival.