770 Fire Safety in On-Campus Student Residential Housing
Approved by President
Effective Date: January 20, 2021
Responsible Division: Business and Finance
Responsible Office: Facilities Services
Responsible Officer: Assistant Vice President, Facilities Services
This policy promotes the safety of the Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU or University) community, prevents damage to University property, and complies with applicable laws, regulations, and policies. Every member of the University community is responsible for assisting in the prevention and proper handling of fire hazards, and for being familiar with Chapter 7 (Fire Safety) of the Campus Safety Handbook, which outlines the University’s plan to promote fire safety and reduce the risk of fire-related incidents and injuries. Planning for fire safety at MTSU takes into account the special fire hazards for specific operating areas, the protection of high-value property, and the safety of staff, students, and guests.
A. Facilities Services provides and maintains fire detection systems, fire alarm systems, automatic and manual fire suppression systems, and portable fire extinguishers.
B. The MTSU Fire Marshal provides consultative services and administrative support related to fire rules and procedures, fire safety, codes interpretation, fire/rescue and hazardous material emergency response. The MTSU Fire Marshal also provides campus coordination with the fire department, emergency medical services, and county, state, and federal emergency management resources.
III. Fire Safety Rules
1. The sounding of false fire alarms and tampering with firefighting or safety equipment, including extinguishers, hoses, EXIT signs, and the alarm system, is prohibited.
2. Housing staff in each building shall be responsible for instructing the occupants that the entire building is to be one hundred percent (100%) evacuated in an emergency or when a fire alarm sounds.
3. One hundred percent (100%) evacuation of a building is required in the event of a fire alarm or fire.
4. It should be assumed that all fire alarms are actual fires. Staff and students failing to appropriately evacuate the building may be subject to disciplinary action.
5. Portable fire extinguishers, for use by authorized and trained personnel, are located in campus buildings in compliance with applicable codes. In the event of a fire or fire alarm, the number one priority for all other persons is to safely and immediately evacuate the building.
B. Smoking. Smoking, including vaporizers, hookahs, e-cigarettes, etc., is prohibited on the MTSU campus and in all campus buildings, including student residential housing.
C. Open Flames. Lighting devices such as tiki lamps, oil lamps, torches, etc., are absolutely prohibited in all MTSU facilities, including student residential housing. The use of candles, and the burning of incense, in residential facilities are prohibited, unless written authorization from the Director of Housing and Residential Life or Greek Life, as appropriate, is obtained.
D. The unauthorized possession, ignition, or detonation of any object or article which would cause damage by fire or other means to persons or property, or possession of any substance which could be considered to be, and used as, fireworks, is prohibited.
E. Exit Ways and Building Corridors
1. Buildings designed for human occupancy must have continuous and unobstructed ways of egress to permit prompt evacuation of the occupants and allow necessary access for responding emergency personnel.
2. Corridors must not be used for storage. The intent is to keep exits free from obstructions and clear of combustible materials.
3. Storage of furniture, equipment, supplies, or anything else is not permitted in corridors or stairwells.
4. Combustibles, including recyclable waste paper, are not permitted in stairwells.
5. All stairwells must remain clear at all times.
6. Furnishings or storage are not permitted in stairwells at any time.
F. Electrical Cords
1. All electrical cords must be maintained in good repair, without splices or fraying.
2. All electrical cords must be approved by Underwriters' Laboratories (UL) and must be in compliance with the National Electrical Code.
3. Electrical cords shall not be run through doors, windows, or other openings in walls, floors, or ceilings.
4. Electrical cords shall not be used outside of the room where the receptacle is located.
5. Electrical cords shall not be spliced for any reason. Broken or damaged cords shall be replaced.
6. All electrical cords shall be properly grounded when in use and must have a grounding conductor.
7. Multiple-outlet plug adapters are prohibited.
8. Household two (2)-conductor extension cords are prohibited.
9. Adapters to allow three (3)-wire, three (3) conductor cords to be plugged into two (2)-wire cords or receptacles are prohibited. It is also prohibited to remove the grounding conductor to allow three (3)-wire, three (3) conductor cords to be plugged into two (2)-wire cords or receptacles.
10. Extension cords are prohibited; however, power strips, with three (3)-wire, three (3) conductor cords, preferably with an internal breaker function, are allowed. They are to be plugged directly into three (3)-hole grounded outlets. They shall not be plugged into an adapter, extension cord, or other power strip.
G. Electrical Tools or Appliances in Residential Housing
1. Powered equipment, such as electrical tools or appliances, must be grounded or double insulated.
2. Combustible materials must be eighteen (18) inches or more away from any light bulb or electrical appliance.
a. Appliances with open heating elements may not be operated in student residence rooms in residence halls, sorority/fraternity houses, apartments, or other campus residence facilities.
b. All appliances must be maintained in good repair; must be approved by Underwriters' Laboratories (UL) and must be in compliance with the National Electrical Code.
c. Appliances found to be unsafe shall be removed.
d. Appliances shall be placed on non-combustible surfaces no closer than eighteen (18) inches from any combustibles.
e. Air conditioners, unauthorized refrigerators (those larger than 3.7 cubic feet, not to exceed 3.0 amps), freezers, heavy electrical appliances, such as laundry and dishwashing machines, personal stoves and halogen lamps, are prohibited.
f. Microwaves not to exceed 2.5 amps are allowed.
g. Portable heaters are prohibited in residence halls, sorority/fraternity houses, apartments, or other campus residence facilities.
h. Appliances available for use shall be considered to be in use, even if not plugged in.
IV. Reporting Fires or File Alarms
A. Immediately activate the building alarm system.
B. Immediately report all fires, regardless of size (even if extinguished), smoke, or fire alarms on campus to the MTSU Police Department by dialing 2424 or 911 from any campus phone. Many fire alarm systems are not remotely monitored; therefore, it is imperative that someone notify the MTSU Police Department of fires and fire alarms as soon as it is safely possible.
C. The MTSU Police Department will immediately notify the Murfreesboro Fire and Rescue Department.
D. The MTSU Police Department will immediately notify the MTSU Fire Marshal of any reported fire or fire alarm at any hour.
V. Building Evacuation during a Fire or Other Emergency
A. Area Coordinators and Resident Directors shall be responsible for instructing the residents of their assigned buildings that the entire building is to be one hundred percent (100%) evacuated in an emergency or when the fire alarm sounds.
B. The size and type of construction of many campus buildings may prevent residents from detecting an actual fire until they are at extreme risk of injury. State law requires that all persons immediately evacuate.
C. Staff and residents must follow these procedures upon discovery of a fire, smoke in a building, or activation of a fire alarm system:
1. If a fire occurs in a room, occupants must get out, close the door, and stay out.
2. An alarm must be sounded and the fire reported to 2424 or 911.
3. When an alarm sounds, occupants must, leave if possible. The following steps should be taken. If the door out of the room is cool to the touch, it should be opened slowly. Occupants should proceed to the nearest exit, crawling low under any smoke. If the door out to the room is hot, it should not be opened. All cracks should be sealed with wet towels, clothing, or other available material, and all fans and air conditioners should be shut off. Place a signal at the window and phone for help.
4. Assume all fire alarms are actual fires.
5. Do not investigate; that is the responsibility of the Fire Department.
6. Use the stairs. Elevators shall not be used for building evacuation purposes under any circumstances.
7. Persons evacuating the building will assemble at a safe distance from the building where they will not interfere with or be endangered by the operation of fire, rescue or other emergency equipment.
8. The person reporting the emergency should meet the officer in charge of the first arriving police unit or fire apparatus and inform him or her of the nature of the emergency and the general situation.
9. The building should not be re-entered until permission to do so is given by the Fire Department or the MTSU Fire Marshal.
VI. Fire Detection and Alarm System Operation
A. Types of Signals: Fire alarm systems may provide three types of signals: Fire Alarm, Supervisory, and Trouble.
B. Fire Alarm Signal: A fire alarm signal is a warning of fire danger that requires immediate action.
1. Fire alarm signals must always be immediately reported to the University Police Department.
2. The University Police Department will immediately report the fire alarm to the Murfreesboro Fire and Rescue Department.
3. The University Police Department will also immediately notify the MTSU Fire Marshal, who will coordinate with the Director of Building Services, as needed.
4. A fire alarm signal will always require a system reset after the Murfreesboro Fire and Rescue Department has determined the cause of the fire alarm and the Murfreesboro Fire and Rescue Department Incident Commander has authorized reoccupation of the building.
a. When authorized by the Murfreesboro Fire and Rescue Department Incident Commander or the MTSU Fire Marshal, any activated pull stations shall be reset by either the MTSU Fire Marshal or their representative, or the University Police Department.
b. When all smoke detectors have cleared, all activated pull stations have been reset, and authorization has been received from the Murfreesboro Fire and Rescue Department Incident Commander or the MTSU Fire Marshal, the fire alarm system shall be reset at either the fire alarm control panel or the annunciator panel by either the MTSU Fire Marshal, University Police Department, or a representative of Facilities Services.
c. If the system will not reset due to a malfunction, the MTSU Fire Marshal will initiate appropriate emergency repairs.
C. Supervisory Signal: A Supervisory Signal indicates that action is needed in connection with the operation of other fire protection systems that are being monitored by the fire alarm system. Such systems may include detection or suppression systems, such as smoke detectors and automatic sprinkler systems.
1. A supervisory signal may be either an off-normal signal, indicating a condition requiring attention; or a restoration-to-normal signal, indicating the condition that initiated the original off-normal signal has been resolved.
2. In sprinkled residential apartment type occupancies, an active smoke detector will be reported as a supervisory signal without sounding a general alarm. This feature is to prevent unintentional alarms because of cooking or smoking since an actual fire will activate the sprinkler system and sound a general fire alarm.
3. Upon receipt of supervisory signals in residential apartment buildings, such as Scarlett Commons, Greek Row, or Womack Lane Apartments, it is recommended that the Housing Area Coordinator on duty conduct a welfare check on that apartment, either by telephone or a physical visit, but there is no need to roll out the fire department unless a sprinkler water flow is indicated.
4. Supervisory signals should be acknowledged at the fire alarm control panel or annunciator panel, but there is no need to reset the system.
D. Trouble Signal: A trouble signal indicates a fault in a monitored circuit or component of the fire alarm system, or the disarrangement of the primary or secondary power supply.
1. Trouble signals should be acknowledged at the fire alarm control panel or annunciator panel but there is no need to reset the system.
2. Trouble signals should be reported to Facilities Services through the Work Order system, either online or by telephone. After hours, if the trouble signal is associated with a fire alarm signal and the trouble prevents a system reset, the University Police Department will notify the MTSU Fire Marshal so that appropriate emergency repairs may be initiated.
VII. Fire Safety Training and Education
A. Fire Exit Drills
1. The purpose of conducting fire exit drills is to ensure the safe and efficient evacuation of a building in an emergency while maintaining order and control and preventing panic. Speed in emptying a building, while desirable, is not the object of a fire exit drill and should be considered of secondary importance.
2. The Resident Director or Area Coordinator conducting a fire exit drill shall notify the University Police Department at 2424 of the time and location of the drill not less than one (1) hour prior to initiating any fire exit drill.
3. The University Police Department dispatcher shall notify the Murfreesboro Fire Department dispatcher of the time and location of the drill prior to the actual initiation of any fire exit drill.
4. Each residence hall shall conduct a minimum of two (2) fire exit drills each semester. One (1) shall be announced and notice given to all building staff and residents. One (1) shall be unannounced without notice to either the building staff or residents.
5. The Resident Director or Area Coordinator conducting a fire exit drill shall notify Facilities Services, via work order, of the time and location of the drill so that personnel can be made available to reset any pull stations and the fire alarm system at the conclusion of the drill.
6. When the fire alarm system has been reset, and the drill has been concluded, the University Police Department shall be notified that the drill is complete. If the system will not reset due to a malfunction, then the Director of Building Services and the MTSU Fire Marshal will initiate the appropriate emergency repairs.
B. Online Fire Safety Education. Housing staff shall participate in the assigned online fire safety training prior to being assigned duties in a residence hall.
VIII. Fire Safety Report
A. An annual fire safety report will be published and distributed by October 1 of each year. Notice of the report will be given to all enrolled students and all employees. Prospective students and employees will also be provided notice, as appropriate.
B. The annual fire safety report will contain the following information:
1. A description of each on-campus student housing facility fire safety system;
2. The number of fire drills held during the previous calendar year;
3. The policy on portable electrical appliances, smoking, and open flames in a student housing facility;
4. Procedures for student housing evacuation in the case of a fire;
5. The policy regarding fire safety education and training programs provided to students and employees describing the procedures that students and employees should follow in the case of a fire;
6. For purposes of including a fire in the statistics in the annual fire safety report, a list of the titles of each person or organization to which students and employees should report that a fire occurred; and,
7. Plans for future improvements in fire safety, if determined to be necessary by the University.
C. Statistics for each on-campus student housing facility for the three (3) most recent calendar years including, for each student housing facility, the number of fires and the cause of each fire, the number of persons with fire-related injuries for each fire, the number of fire-related deaths for each fire, and the value of property damage caused by each fire.
D. All fires and fire alarms shall be reported to the MTSU Fire Marshal.
IX. Fire Log – On-Campus Student Housing Facilities
A. A written fire log will record, by the date reported, any fire that occurs in an on-campus student housing facility.
B. The log will include the date the fire was reported, the nature of the fire, the date and time of the fire, and the general location of the fire.
C. The log for the most recent sixty (60)-day period will be maintained to allow access to the public.
X. Future Improvements
MTSU residence halls all have current, state of the art, digital fire alarm systems. MTSU strives to be a leader in residence hall fire safety and is making upgrades beyond minimum requirements as funding is made available. Future plans include upgrading all existing systems to voice capability, improving fire department access, and redundant systems monitoring capability.
Revisions: June 5, 2017 (original); January 20, 2021.
Last Reviewed: April 2022.
References: MTSU Campus Safety Handbook, International Fire Code, Life Safety Code.