General Fire/Life Safety

Fire/life safety involves numerous safety issues including fire prevention, fire suppression, and emergency evacuation/response. Fire/life safety is everyone's responsibility.


Learn how to prevent fires --- what you learn will be invaluable.

WASHBURN UNIVERSITY is committed to providing a safe environment for building occupants and emergency response personnel. WASHBURN UNIVERSITY uses nationally accepted codes as guidelines for inspections, testing, and procedures.

The Effects of a Fire

Most fires produce an immense amount of smoke that is highly toxic. In fact, smoke is responsible for more fire fatalities than flames. A smokey fire can have the following effect on humans:

Within 30 seconds - Disorientation

Within 2 minutes - Unconsciousness

Within 3 minutes - Death

Timing is critical during a fire. To ensure your safety, you must know how to prevent and respond to any fire emergency.

Fire Prevention

The greatest protection against property loss and injuries from fire is prevention. Follow these guidelines to promote fire/life safety:

  • Minimize combustible storage.
  • Store waste materials in suitable containers.
  • Use flammable materials in well-ventilated areas.
  • Use and store flammables away from ignition sources, such as cigarettes.
  • Keep equipment in good working order. Have electrical wiring and appliances inspected regularly.
  • Ensure that heating units are properly safeguarded.
  • Report and repair all gas leaks immediately.
  • Conduct hot work in well-ventilated areas.
  • Test enclosed or confined spaces for flammable atmospheres.
  • Use open flames carefully. Do not use open flames where flammable atmospheres may be present.

Fire Response

If you see a fire or smoke, or if you smell smoke, complete the following steps:

1. Pull the fire pull station to begin evacuating the building.

2. If you are not in immediate danger, call 911 to report the fire. Provide the operator with the following information:

  • Building or area name
  • Approximate location of the fire
  • Size and type of fire
  • Your name

3. Exit the building by following posted evacuation routes. Do not use elevators during an emergency.

During actual emergencies, building occupants must receive permission from the The Topeka Fire Department, or the Campus Police & Safety Department before re-entering the building.


Evacuation plans and fire drills are essential for building occupants to respond correctly to a fire alarm.

Evacuation Procedures 

Individuals with Disabilities

Individuals Who Need Assistance During An Evacuation Are Encouraged To Identify And Discuss With Someone In Advance Who Might Assist Them In Leaving The Building And/Or Who Will Inform Emergency Personnel Of Their Presence And Where They Are Located So That Further Assistance Can Be Provided.

  • Ask for assistance to the nearest exit or room near a stairway or a window.
  • Note the room number or location where you are. Ask someone leaving the building to notify Emergency personnel of your location and further assistance will be provided.
  • If a phone is available, call 911. State your location so emergency personnel can be directed to you.


If you suspect arson, no matter how small the incident, contact the Campus Police & Safety Department. Do not alter the fire scene in any way, unless you are trying to extinguish a live fire. The Campus Police & Safety Department and Fire Department work together to investigate possible arson.

Combustible Storage

By storing excess combustible materials improperly, faculty and staff not only increase the potential for having a fire, they increase the potential severity of a fire. To reduce the hazards associated with combustible storage, follow these guidelines:

Eliminate excess combustible materials such as paper and cardboard.

Do not store combustible materials in hallways, stairwells, or mechanical rooms.

When stacking combustible materials, leave at least 18 inches between the top of the stack and the ceiling.

Portable LPG

The Kansas State Fire Marshal regulates the use of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG), including butane and propane. These regulations govern several types of LPG-powered equipment including the following:


Floor buffers

Cooking and heating equipment

Laboratory equipment

Exhaust fumes may contain carbon monoxide which can present a health hazard. Exhaust can also create smoke which may activate a smoke detector. Take special precautions to ensure adequate ventilation when using these machines indoors.

Because LPG is extremely flammable, it is a potential fire hazard. Do not store LPG near heat, flame, or other ignition sources. In addition, do not leave portable LPG containers larger than 16 oz. in a building overnight. Instead, place portable LPG containers and LPG equipment outside in a storage area that is at least 25 feet away from other buildings, combustible materials, roadways, railroads, pipelines, utility lines, and the property line. This storage area should prevent unauthorized entry and have a portable fire extinguisher within 25 feet.

Emergency Access and Egress 

Emergency access and egress are critical during an emergency situation such as a fire. During a fire, timing and quick response are essential to save lives and property. Effective emergency access ensures that fire trucks can reach a building in time to extinguish the fire. Unobstructed emergency egress ensures that building occupants can exit a building to safety.

These definitions help clarify the concept of emergency access and egress:

Emergency Access:

Pertinent facilities and equipment remain available and unobstructed at all times to ensure effective fire detection, evacuation, suppression, and response.

Emergency Egress:

A continuous and unobstructed way to travel from any point in a public building to public way. A means of egress may include horizontal and vertical travel routes, including intervening rooms, doors, hallways, corridors, passageways, balconies, ramps, stairs, enclosures, lobbies, courts, and yards.


Each location within a building must have a clear means of egress to the outside.

The following sections offer safety guidelines and procedures for maintaining emergency access and egress.

Corridors, Stairways, and Exits

An exit corridor and/or stairway is a pedestrian pathway that allows direct access to the outside of a building and/or allows access to a building entrance and subsequent pathways to the outside of a building (i.e., an exit corridor is the quickest, easiest, and most direct pathway for leaving a building.) Because exit corridors or passageways are the primary means of egress during an emergency, faculty and staff must follow the safety guidelines outlined in this section.


There must be at least 44 inches clear width of unobstructed, clutter-free space in all corridors, stairways, and exits.

Follow these guidelines to promote safe evacuation in corridors, stairways, and exits:

Keep all means of egress clean, clutter-free, and unobstructed.

Do not place hazardous materials or equipment in areas that are used for evacuation.

Do not use corridors or stairways for storage or office/laboratory operations.

Fire Lanes

A fire lane is an area designated for emergency personnel only. It allows them to gain access to a building and/or fire protection systems. Although most fire lanes on campus are clearly marked, not all fire lanes are easy to distinguish. WASHBURN UNIVERSITY has a program in place to clearly mark all fire lanes.


Do not park in fire lanes or within 15 feet of fire hydrants.

Fire Doors

A fire door serves as a barrier to limit the spread of fire and restrict the movement of smoke. Unless they are held open by the automatic systems, fire doors should remain closed at all times. Do not tamper with fire doors or block them with equipment, potted plants, wedges, furniture, etc.

Fire doors are normally located in stairwells, corridors, and other areas required by Fire Code. The door, door frame, locking mechanism, and closure are rated between 20 minutes and three hours. A fire door rating indicates how long the door assembly can withstand heat and a water hose stream.

Always keep fire doors closed. If it is necessary to keep a fire door open, have a special closure installed. This closure will connect the fire door to the building's fire alarm system, and will automatically close the door if the alarm system activates.


Know which doors are fire doors and keep them closed to protect building occupants and exit paths from fire and smoke. Never block a fire door with a non-approved closure device such as a door stop, block of wood, or potted plant. For fire doors with approved closure devices, make sure that nothing around the door can impede the closure.

Never alter a fire door or assembly in any way. Simple alterations such as changing a lock or installing a window can lessen the fire rating of the door.

Doors to offices, laboratories, and classrooms help act as smoke barriers regardless of their fire rating. Keep these doors closed whenever possible.


A closed door is the best way to protect your path to safety from the spread of smoke and fire.

Fire Detection and Notification

WASHBURN UNIVERSITY uses several types of fire detection and notification systems including heat detectors, smoke detectors, pull stations, and horns and lights. The following sections discuss these components.

Heat and Smoke Detectors 

Fire detectors at WASHBURN UNIVERSITY are linked to the Campus Police & Safety Dispatch Center. Once a building alarm system is activated, the transmitted alarm alerts the Communications Specialist who initiates the emergency response.

There are two types of fire detection devices used on the WASHBURN UNIVERSITY campus: heat detectors and smoke detectors. Please note the location of the detectors in your area and prevent damage and accidental activation.

Heat Detectors:

Heat detectors respond to the convected energy in hot smoke and fire gases (i.e., heat). Heat detectors are normally located in laboratories, mechanical rooms, storage areas, and areas that could produce high levels of dust, steam, or other airborne particles.

Smoke Detectors:

Smoke detectors respond to the solid and liquid aerosols produced by a fire (i.e., smoke). Since smoke detectors cannot distinguish between smoke particles and other particles such as steam, building occupants must be aware of detector locations and be considerate when working around them. Smoke detectors are normally found in exit corridors, office areas, assembly areas, and residence halls.

If your work produces steam, dust, or an environment that could damage or activate a detector, protect the detector with some type of covering (e.g., plastic bag). Remember to remove the protective covering at the end of the day or as soon as your work is done.

Alarm Systems: Pull Stations

Fire alarm manual pull stations are installed to manually activate a building's alarms in addition to the automatic fire sensing devices. When pulled manually, a pull station activates the fire alarm system and notifies University personnel that an emergency exists. Pull stations are located near exit stairways and/or building exits. If you smell smoke or if you see smoke or a fire, complete these steps:

1. Pull a manual pull station to evacuate the area

2. If you are not in immediate danger, call 911.

Alarm Systems: Horns and Lights

Emergency horns/bells and lights are located throughout University buildings with fire alarm systems. They are typically found near emergency pull stations. Do not block emergency horns or lights. Report damaged or defective horns and lights to the Campus Police & Safety Department.

Fire Suppression

WASHBURN UNIVERSITY uses various types of fire suppression equipment including portable fire extinguishers, sprinklers, halon systems, and fire hose/standpipe systems. The following sections discuss each type of fire suppression equipment.

Fire Extinguishers 

Fires are classified according to three basic categories. Each type of fire requires special treatment to control and extinguish it. Therefore, all fire extinguishers are clearly marked to indicate the fire classes for which they are designed.

Fires are classified as indicated below. Refer to the information below for additional information.

Class A:

Fires involving ordinary combustibles such as wood, textiles, paper, rubber, cloth, and trash. The extinguishing agent for a Class A fire must be cool. Water and multi-purpose dry chemical fire extinguishers are ideal for use on these types of fires.

Class B:

Fires involving flammable or combustible liquids or gases such as solvents, gasoline, paint, lacquer, and oil. The extinguishing agent for a Class B fire must remove oxygen or stop the chemical reaction. Carbon dioxide, multi-purpose dry chemical and halon fire extinguishers are ideal for use on these types of fires.

Class C:

Fires involving energized electrical equipment or appliances. The extinguishing agent for a Class C fire must be a nonconducting agent. Carbon dioxide, multi-purpose dry chemical, and halon fire extinguishers are ideal for use on these types of fires. Never use a water fire extinguisher on a Class C fire.

There are numerous types of fire extinguishers; however, most extinguishers contain water, carbon dioxide, or dry chemicals. There is one additional type of extinguisher here on campus. These are Class K and they will only be found in the kitchen area of the Food Court. They are only to be used on hot cooking oil fires.


The Facilities Services Department inspects and tests fire extinguishers regularly. (Fire extinguishers must be recharged after every use.) To report a missing or damaged fire extinguisher, call the Campus Police & Safety Department.


Most fire extinguishers provide operating instructions on their label; however, the time to learn about fire extinguishers is not during a fire. The sooner you know how to use a fire extinguisher, the better prepared you are.


Portable fire extinguishers are located throughout all University facilities. They are mounted in readily accessible locations such as hallways, near exit doors, and areas containing fire hazards. Make sure that fire extinguishers are accessible and securely mounted.

The Campus Police & Safety Department provides fire extinguisher classes. When using a fire extinguisher to fight or control a fire, aim the spray at the base of the fire. Because most extinguishers only work for a short time, employ a sweeping motion and work quickly to control the fire.


Do not attempt to fight a fire unless it is small and controllable. Use good judgment to determine your capability to fight a fire. When fighting a fire, always maintain an escape route. Never allow a fire to block your egress.

Sprinkler Systems

The purpose of water sprinkler systems is to help extinguish and minimize the spread of fires. Sprinklers are normally activated only by heat. They are not connected to emergency pull stations. To ensure that sprinklers are effective in the event of a fire, maintain at least 18 inches of clearance between any equipment or storage items and the ceiling. (Anything close to the ceiling can defeat the sprinkler system.) Never hang anything from a sprinkler head.

Halon Systems 

Special work areas, such as computer rooms contain specialized fire suppression systems. For example, the main computer room in Bennett contains a halon system. Areas with special fire suppression systems will be clearly identified on the room door. People who work in these areas must do the following:

  • Keep all room doors and windows closed.
  • Know how the fire suppression system works (i.e., operation, abort switch, etc.).
  • Do not tamper with ceiling tiles.

If you have any questions about supplemental fire suppression systems, please contact the Campus Police & Safety Department.

Holiday Decorations

Holiday decorations are often fire hazards. Follow these guidelines to improve fire safety during the holidays:

  • Do not use live Christmas trees in University buildings. Use an artificial tree that is fire resistant.
  • Do not place holiday decorations where they may block emergency egress (e.g., stairways, corridors, near doors, etc.)
  • Only use decorations that are flame retardant.
  • Practice good housekeeping by minimizing paper and other combustible decorations.
  • Avoid using extension cords. Power Strips are OK to use.
  • Use FM or UL labeled electrical decorations.
  • Do not light candles or use other decorations with open flames.
  • Turn off lights when the room is unoccupied. 

Quick Links

Safety Planning & Emergency Management: Memorial Union, Upper Level 785-670-1779

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