Fire Prevention

Understanding and complying with fire safety requirements is everyone's responsibility. Your actions can prevent fires on campus. This page provides information about common issues identified during state fire inspections and addresses some of the commonly asked questions.

For residential buildings, follow the fire safety requirements described on this page as well as the Student Living and Learning webpages that contain important information on What to Bring to Campus and Prohibited Items.

In the case of a fire or other emergency requiring evacuation, all building occupants must be able to immediately exit to a safe location away from the building.

  • Do not block egress paths, including hallways and exits.
  • Keep corridors, aisles and all exits clear of equipment, materials, especially items that can burn easily, to facilitate evacuation.
  • Keep exit stairway doors closed and do not store materials anywhere in stairways, including landings and alcoves. 
  • Check swinging fire doors for full closure and latching. Contact FIXX if you find a fire door not closing and latching.

Fire suppression systems, including building sprinkler systems, are designed to suppress a fire to allow for safe evacuation of building occupants and protection of property. It is essential that suppression systems can operate as designed.

  • Maintain 18 inches of clearance below any sprinkler heads. 
  • Do not hang anything from sprinkler heads or pipes. Nothing can be draped over, attached to or touching any sprinkler pipes.
  • If there are no sprinklers, maintain 24 inches of clearance below the ceiling. 
  • Store materials properly and ensure that storage is not too close to the ceiling (18 inches if sprinklers present, 24 inches if no sprinklers present).

Space heaters can become a fire hazard if not used properly. Follow these important requirements when using a space heater on campus.

  • The space heater must have a thermostat and automatic shutoff (if the heater is tipped over, it will automatically shuts off).  
  • Space heaters must be UL (or other nationally recognized testing laboratory) listed and labeled as such.  
  • All space heaters must be plugged directly into a wall outlet; the heater cannot be plugged into a power strip, unapproved power tap or extension cord.  
  • Set up space heaters with at least three feet of clearance around all sides. 
  • Do not leave space heaters running unattended.

Small appliances must be used properly to reduce the risk of fire.

  • Coffee pots with automatic shut off and microwaves are permitted.  
  • Small appliances must be used in a designated area (i.e. a small kitchenette or designated break area).  
  • Appliances must be plugged directly into a wall electrical outlet; appliances cannot be plugged into a power strip, unapproved power tap or extension cord.  
  • A pop-up toaster may be used in a designated kitchen/kitchenette area only. 
  • Appliances that contain an exposed heating element or flame are not permitted. Appliances that are not permitted include, but are not limited to, toaster ovens, open coil or induction appliances, grills, candles, incense burners, skillets, etc.
  • Do not leave any appliance running unattended.

Electrical hazards are a common cause of fires. Fire codes provide specific requirements for power strips, extension cords and multi-plug power adapters. These requirements must be followed for electrical use in all campus buildings. 

  • Power strips must be grounded, protected, have a reset button and be plugged directly into a wall outlet.
  • Extension cords and multi-plug adaptors are not permitted.
  • No daisy chaining is permitted (daisy chaining is when an extension cord is connected to a power strip or a power strip is plugged into another power strip).
  • Reach out to FIXX, EHS or your building coordinator on how to safely provide power for your needs.
  • Do not overload electrical outlets or power strips.
  • Do not run cords through walls or ceilings, under carpeting or furniture or in high traffic areas where they could be subject to damage. Inspect cords frequently to check for fraying, missing grounding pins or other damage.

In addition to the items noted in other sections on this page, the following items are prohibited from campus buildings:

  • Candles (lit or unlit) or any open flame devices of any kind.
  • Live holiday trees.
  • Plug in string lights (battery operated light are allowed).
  • Halogen lamps, flammable liquids (unless stored in a flammable cabinet in an approved location), or hover boards.
  • Excessive accumulation of combustible materials such as paper, cardboard, plastic (recycle or discard unnecessary combustibles and store excess materials in a metal cabinet or storage closet).
  • Other items that are identified as posing a fire hazard.

  • Do not store items and equipment in front fire extinguishers, fire alarm pull stations, sprinkler system controls, breaker panel boxes or other utility shut-off operations.
  • Maintain a clear and unobstructed path to all emergency equipment.
  • Tape terminals of discarded batteries — even when they are no longer useful, some battery types still maintain a charge and can easily start a fire upon contact with other batteries or metal objects such as aluminum foil, paper clips, coins, and keys. Review and follow the Institute’s regulated waste management procedures.
  • All gas cylinders must be secured by approved chaining, belting or designated storage cabinets.
  • Keep chemicals stored in appropriate shelving units, cabinets designed for acids, flammables or other designated chemical storage units.  

If you have any questions about fire fire prevention topics at Rensselaer, contact

Back to top