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The Fire and Life Safety Program provides information on the requirements of Uniform Statewide Building Code, Statewide Fire Prevention Code, OSHA, NFPA standards, and legal obligations of Virginia Tech.

The Fire and Life Safety Program contains policies and procedures that, when implemented and maintained, will satisfy the code and legal obligations of Virginia Tech, help satisfy insurance requirements, prevent loss of life, and reduce injury and property damage due to fire and other emergencies. This program applies to all Virginia Tech properties and to all work performed by Virginia Tech employees regardless of jobsite location.

The health and safety of university employees, students, and visitors to our campus are of paramount importance to everyone working and learning at the university. It directly impacts both the quality and value of the university. The concern the university displays for its employees, students, and visitors mirrors the character and strength of Virginia Tech's commitment to its academic mission.

Employer

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires employers to provide each employee "a place of employment which is free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm." All employees, including managers and supervisors, play a role in helping the university meet this general duty obligation.

Departments

Departments are expected to maintain safe and healthy living, learning, and working environments for faculty, staff, students, and visitors to our campus. Departments must require that faculty, staff, students, and visitors perform work in a safe and healthy manner and in compliance with regulatory requirements and university policies. Departments must ensure that employees are provided required training, that worksites are inspected on a periodic basis to identify and correct hazards, and that all other elements of this program are developed and implemented as needed.

Responsibility for this program lies with the highest supervisory level of each departmental unit unless otherwise specified. It is recommended that each department designate this responsibility to supervisory personnel; however, other appropriate persons may be designated.

Supervisors and principal investigators

Supervisors and principal investigators must implement the requirements of this program to assure compliance with applicable codes, regulations, and policies. They must be aware of the applicable training requirements necessary under OSHA programs or the fire code, and assure that worksites are periodically inspected to identify hazards so that they may be corrected. Environmental Health & Safety personnel are available to assist supervisors with finding solutions for eliminating identified hazards.

In the laboratory setting, the principal investigator is also responsible for assuring the proper storage, use, and disposal of chemicals, and that portable fire extinguishers are inspected as required.

Employees and students

Staff, faculty, students, and visitors play an important part in assuring safety: they must do what they can to protect themselves and others within the university community and respond appropriately to emergencies. Employees must avail themselves of information pertaining to the safe conduct of their work, regardless of the setting. Students must also participate in fire and life safety programs and respect the safety of others and their own safety. Environmental Health & Safety offers fire safety training programs for both the employee and student.

Contractors

Contractors working at the university are expected to observe and abide by state and federal codes and regulations as well as policies and procedures established for the university community. Refer to Virginia Tech's Safety Requirements for Contractors and Subcontractors for detailed information.

If a fire emergency occurs, all persons at Virginia Tech have a responsibility to take immediate and appropriate action as outlined in your department's Emergency Action Plan (EAP). For those buildings that do not have a fire alarm, you may notify other occupants by knocking on doors and shouting "fire" as you exit the building. Do not jeopardize your own safety to do this. Your department's Emergency Action Plan will be activated and all occupants must evacuate the building. To check if your building is equipped with an automatic fire alarm, detection, and/or a fire suppression system - sprinklers, contact the fire safety engineer at 540-231-3600.

There is generally no employer expectation for employees to attempt to extinguish a fire or otherwise stay in their workplace for any reason upon being notified of a fire emergency. However, employees that oversee hot work (e.g., welding, cutting, brazing), that are involved in construction, commercial cooking or renovation operations, serve as crowd managers, or that are specifically identified by job or role must be trained to use portable fire extinguishers. Also, some employees may be required to maintain critical equipment or services or to arrange for the orderly shutdown of hazardous processes; such a requirement should be written into the employee's job description and included in your department's Emergency Action Plan.

IF THERE'S A FIRE

SOUND THE ALARM

  • If you discover or suspect a fire, sound the building fire alarm.
  • If there is no alarm in the building, notify other occupants by knocking on doors
    and shouting "FIRE" as you leave the building.

LEAVE THE BUILDING

  • Try to rescue others ONLY if you can do so safely.
  • Move at least 50 feet away from the building, out of the way of the fire department.
  • Don't go back into the building until the fire department says it is safe to do so.

CALL THE FIRE/POLICE DEPARTMENT - 911

  • Dial 911 or use an emergency phone.
  • Give as much information as possible to the 911 operator.

A false alarm is an intentional activation of a fire alarm when no emergency exists. This does not include malfunctions of the alarm system. False alarms have the potential for causing panic and harm to building occupants unnecessarily. Anyone caught making a false alarm at Virginia Tech will be subject to criminal charges and will be referred for disciplinary action by the appropriate university department.

Each university department or unit must develop an Emergency Action Plan that outlines the actions occupants in the building must take during emergencies. Fire evacuation planning is a part of each department's Emergency Action Plan. It must include the following: 

  1. Emergency egress or escape routes and whether evacuation of the building is to be complete or, where approved, by selected floors or areas only.
  2. Procedures for employees who must remain to operate critical equipment before evacuating.
  3. Procedures to account for employees and occupants after evacuation. These procedures will usually include the designation of an emergency assembly area.
  4. Procedures for assisted rescue for persons unable to use the general means of egress unassisted.
  5. Identification and assignment of personnel responsible for rescue or emergency medical aid.
  6. Procedures for accounting for employees and occupants after evacuation has been completed.
  7. The preferred and any alternative means of notifying occupants of a fire or emergency.
  8. The preferred and any alternative means of reporting fires and other emergencies to the fire department or designated emergency response organization.
  9. Identification and assignment of personnel who can be contacted for further information or explanation of duties under the plan.
  10. A description of the emergency voice/alarm communication system alert tone and preprogrammed voice messages where provided.
  11. Site plans and floor plans that show exits, primary and secondary evacuation routes, accessible egress routes, areas of refuge (if present), manual fire alarm pull stations, and assembly points.
  12. Training of departmental employees by the designated departmental coordinator.

Emergency Action Plans must be reviewed or updated annually or whenever changes in staff assignments, occupancy, or building layout occur. For assistance with developing your Emergency Action Plan please contact Virginia Tech Emergency Management.

 

Fire prevention plans require an overall emphasis on the building and specific hazards associated with its normal use. The plan identifies specific personnel responsible for fire prevention duties such as controlling the accumulation of combustibles and other potential sources of ignition. Virginia Tech buildings, owned or leased, that have large assembly venues, and academic or research buildings that have more than 500 occupants or 100 or more persons above or below the level of exit discharge must develop a fire prevention plan that includes the following: 

  1. A list of major fire hazards, proper handling and storage procedures for hazardous materials, potential ignition sources associated with the normal use and occupancy of the area. In research buildings, the Chemical Hygiene Plan (CHP) and the Laboratory Specific Documentation maintained by each laboratory will serve as the fire prevention plan for that operation.
  2. Procedures to control accumulations of flammable and combustible materials. In general, all buildings are subject to periodic inspection by Environmental Health & Safety, during which these conditions are inspected.
  3. Identification and assignment of personnel responsible for maintenance, housekeeping, and controlling fuel hazard sources. In general, maintenance and housekeeping duties are performed either by the Division of Campus Planning, Infrastructure, and Facilities, the Division of Student Affairs, or their contractors. Machine shop coordinators and hot work permit coordinators are responsible for controlling fuel source hazards in their location. Fuel hazard sources in laboratories are addressed in the Chemical Hygiene Plan and laboratory-specific documentation.

The fire safety plan is required to be evaluated annually or any time a change occurs in the building. The plan must be made available to the fire department, Environmental Health & Safety, and/or the State Fire Marshal Office when requested.

In addition, the department must communicate certain information to employees, which includes:

  • Informing each employee of the fire hazard(s) to which he or she is exposed. In laboratories, this is addressed in the Chemical Hygiene Plan.
  • Review with employees, when they are initially assigned to a job, those parts of the fire prevention plan that are necessary for employees to protect themselves from potential fire hazards.
  • Review the fire prevention plan again with any employee that is reassigned to a new job with different hazards.
  • Review the plan with all employees any time a change is made to the plan.
  • Review the plan with all new hires.

Fire drills are a vital part of a comprehensive campus fire safety program. Drills are held to familiarize occupants with drill procedures and to make the drill a matter of established routine. The required and recommended frequency of drills is outlined in the table below.

Group or Occupancy

Drill Frequency

Participation

Assembly (for example, Event Managers for activities in Squires ballrooms)

Quarterly

Employees

Business (1)

Recommended Annually (1)

Employees; however, it is recommended that drills occur during normal occupancy

Residential Housing

Four times per year(2)

All occupants

Skelton Inn and Conference Center

Quarterly on each shift

Employees

Adult and Child Day Care (Wallace)

Monthly

Employees

Schiffert Health Center

Quarterly

Employees

(1) Buildings that have more than an occupancy load of 500 or more persons, or more than 100 persons located on floors above or below the level of exit discharge must perform annual drills. Drills are recommended in all occupied buildings.

(2) The emergency evacuation drill shall be conducted within 10 days of the beginning of classes when residence halls are occupied.

Once you have reviewed your evacuation and fire prevention plans with your employees, practice drills are recommended to ensure that the employees are prepared for emergencies. All fire drills must be coordinated with Environmental Health & Safety in advance by calling 540-231-4207 or email firesafe@vt.edu.



Environmental Health & Safety can assist you with drills and involve outside agencies such as the fire and police departments. Fire drills are a vital part of a comprehensive campus fire safety program. Drills are held to familiarize occupants with drill procedures and to make the drill a matter of established routine. All fire drills at Virginia Tech will be announced and preplanned. If a fire alarm sounds and you have not been notified prior to the alarm that it is a drill, take immediate action, evacuate the building, and protect yourself.

To report a fire drill, complete the Fire Drill Reporting Form and email to firesafe@vt.edu.

Assembly occupancies include, but are not limited to, all buildings, portions of buildings, or temporary structures such as a tent used for gathering together 50 or more persons for such purposes as deliberation, worship, entertainment, eating, drinking, amusement, awaiting transportation or similar uses, or that are used as a special amusement building regardless of occupant load.

Examples of assembly occupancies found both on and off-campus include large auditoriums, sports arenas, fraternity function rooms, theaters, and food service dining areas. In general, fire drills and evacuation planning for classrooms are handled in accordance with the primary occupancy of the building. Please contact Environmental Health & Safety at 540-231-3600 if further guidance is needed on this issue.

Public assembly events involve various risk factors associated with having large numbers of people in one location. The primary risk factors are high occupant density, occupants that are not familiar with the building, occupants who may be impaired due to consumption of alcohol or drugs, and events held where there is limited lighting. These risks can be managed through proper event planning and management. Planning for all events (excluding events planned through the Alumni Association and the Department of Athletics) should begin by contacting the Student Engagement and Campus Life Event Planning Office, or phone 540-231-5005.

The following are required for all public assembly occupancies: 

  1. The employees or attendants of assembly events must be trained in emergency evacuation procedures and practice their duties during fire drills.
  2. Employees assigned fire-fighting duties must also be instructed in the proper use of portable fire extinguishers and other manual fire suppression equipment where provided.
  3. In "live" theaters, motion picture theaters, auditoriums, and other similar assembly occupancies, an audible announcement must be made not more than ten minutes prior to the start of each program to notify occupants of the location of the exits to be utilized in case of fire or other emergency and any other emergency procedures unique for the assembly area.
  4. All assembly areas are required to have signs posted stating the allowable number of persons permitted with considerations given for the use of the space.
  5. If more than 500 persons will participate in an indoor event, or 1,000  or more in an outdoor event, trained crowd managers must be provided at the rate of 1 per 250 persons attending. See the following section for more information on crowd manager requirements.  

Where facilities or indoor events involve a gathering of more than 500 people, or outdoor events involve 1,000 or more persons, one crowd manager shall be provided for each 250 persons or portion thereof. For example, an outdoor event with 1,000 persons would require four crowd managers; an outdoor event with 1,500 would require six crowd managers. One crowd manager must be designated as the principal crowd manager. A congregation includes spectators, the general public, performers, and event staff.  

Virginia Tech Administration, the Virginia Tech Police Department, State Fire Marshal, University Fire Safety Officer, Environmental Health & Safety, or the sponsoring organization can increase the minimum requirements, or decrease the requirements, depending on the venue, type of event, and the fire safety systems that exist in the location of the event.

Crowd managers must be trained. Training can be arranged by contacting 540-231-3600.

For more information on crowd manager requirements, please see the Crowd Managers Guide.

In order to comply with the requirements of the Virginia Statewide Fire Prevention Code, it may be necessary to contact the Environmental Health & Safety to request permits and/or approvals for special events. These events include, but are not limited to, hot work operations, open flames and burning activities, pyrotechnics/fireworks, special effects, temporary facilities, and tents and stages. Required approval and inspections must be requested as far in advance as possible. All persons planning public assembly events are encouraged to contact Environmental Health & Safety for information and assistance.

One of the primary goals of the Virginia Statewide Fire Prevention code is to safeguard life in the event of a fire by assuring a safe path of egress travel for occupants. This is achieved by controlling the number of occupants that are allowed to occupy a room or area, and by assuring the egress route is safe and available for immediate use.

The design occupant load is the number of occupants that are intended to occupy a building or portion of a building at any one time and the number for which the means of egress is designed. There is a limit to the density of occupants permitted in an area to enable a reasonable amount of freedom of movement. Occupant load set for any space (especially classrooms, laboratories, auditoriums, and all of the other places of assemblies) should not be exceeded at any time. If you need further assistance determining the occupant load for a space or a special event, contact the Environmental Health & Safety Fire Safety team.

Any space used for assembly occupancy is required to display, in a visible location, the approved occupant load. In addition, an occupant load sign must be posted in any space occupied by 50 or more persons.

General: The means of egress from each part of the structure, including exits, stairways, egress doors, and any panic hardware must be maintained in a safe condition and available for immediate use. Freestanding furniture, trash, combustible material (e.g. paper products), or any unapproved storage should not be allowed in any part of means of egress. Contact Environmental Health & Safety Fire Safety at 540-231-3600 for further information on when storage is acceptable in means of egress. Fire protection equipment (e.g. fire alarm panels, fire extinguishers, etc.) must always be readily accessible to maintenance and emergency response personnel at all times. The exit signs must be lit and in working condition at all times. The access to exit doors must always be kept free of any obstruction.

Exit doors: Exit doors must be easily opened from the egress side without the use of a key or special knowledge. Exit doors can be locked from the outside so long as the door can still be opened from the inside. Thumb bolts, slide latches, and any other type of manual locking devices are prohibited on exit doors. Stairwell doors cannot be locked at any time. These doors must be self-closing and self-latching, except where otherwise allowed based on the age and design of the building. They must also remain closed at all times to inhibit the spread of smoke into the stairwell.

Stairwells and corridors: Stairwells and corridors are intended to provide a safe and adequate means for building occupants to exit the building and for emergency personnel to access the building during an emergency. Tables, showcases, holiday decorations (Christmas trees), vending machines, or other obstructions cannot obstruct aisles, passageways, or stairways during hours when the building is open to the public. Display boards, signs, coat racks, and any other movable equipment that obstructs the path of egress are prohibited. Draperies and similar hangings must be fire retardant (with a tag or a certificate for proof) and cannot obscure an exit. No storage is allowed in stairwells at any time. The State Fire Prevention Code does not permit equipment, such as vending machines, to be placed in any stairwell. This is to ensure safe egress for occupants in the event of an emergency.

Aisles: In each room where chairs and/or tables are utilized, the arrangement needs to provide for ready egress by aisle paths and aisles to each egress door. The minimum required width is 44 inches where serving an occupant load greater than 50, and 36 inches where serving an occupant load of 50 or less for the entire room. Chairs, tables, or other objects cannot obstruct the clear width of aisles.

Egress awareness: Building occupants should take the time to become more familiar with their building. Occupants should think of an emergency scenario that would require them to evacuate, and then determine a primary and an alternative means of egress for themselves. They should also become more familiar with what is going on above and below the level where they normally work. Employees should walk the halls and notice the placement of portable fire extinguishers. If the building is so equipped, notice the location of other fire protection systems, such as fire alarm system pull stations and sprinkler heads. This will certainly be time well spent.

Fire prevention starts with identifying fire hazards. All members of the university community - faculty, staff, students, and visitors - have a personal obligation to be aware of fire hazards and to reduce or eliminate the risk of fire on our campus. The following is a list of common fire hazards found during daily activities on campus.

Combustible waste material: Waste accumulation is prohibited. When these items are allowed to accumulate, the risk of fire is increased. Under the right conditions, the buildup of dust from wood, plastic, or certain metal operations can lead to a fire or explosion. Construction debris must be properly disposed of to eliminate the risk of fire.

Ignition sources: A safe clearance between ignition sources such as light fixtures, heaters, and flame-producing devices, to name a few, and combustible materials need to be maintained. For specific requirements look under basic Fire Prevention Strategies.

Open burning: Due to the hazards associated with open burning, all such activities require an open burn permit. A permit application for an activity can be submitted to the Environmental Health & Safety fire safety engineer. Further information on the requirements for an Open Burn Permit can be found here.

Open flames: Similar to open burns, activities involving open flames require an open flame permit. Open flames activities include, but not limited to, all open flame decorative devices, candles, theatrical performances, religious ceremonies, torches for removing paint, lanterns, kerosene heaters, and gas-fired heaters. Further information on the requirements for an Open Flame Permit can be found here.

Powered industrial trucks: Powered industrial trucks necessitate additional fire safety requirements due to battery-powered electric motors or internal combustion engines using liquid fuel or LP gas. These additional requirements can be found here.

Smoking: Smoking is prohibited in facilities owned or leased by the university. Outdoors, discarded smoking materials carelessly tossed in waste containers or into landscaping can easily start a fire. Use approved waste containers to discard all smoking materials properly.

Vehicle impact protection: Vehicle impact protection is required at locations where a moving vehicle could strike a piece of equipment that contains fuel or is fuel-fired. Guard posts and other physical barriers must be installed to prevent impact on the equipment.

Indoor displays: Indoor displays of merchandise or other items pose a number of fire hazards to building occupants, such as blocked egress paths and rapid-fire burning.

Miscellaneous combustible: The management of combustible materials storage in buildings will reduce the risk of fire.

Storage: Materials should be stored in such a way that they will not obstruct the fire suppression sprinkler heads. Items should be stored 18 inches away from the ceiling if the room or area is protected by a fire suppression system (sprinklers) and 24 inches from the ceiling if there is no fire suppression system. Exceptions are allowed for attached wall shelving unless located directly under a sprinkler head. If wall shelving is located directly under the sprinkler head the 18" clearance should be maintained.

Accumulation of combustible materials: The accumulation of combustible materials (such as cardboard boxes, magazine/journals, and paper products) is prohibited. Combustible material must never be stored any closer than 36" from a heating appliance or electrical light. Items no longer in use should be properly disposed of to avoid stacking and accumulation on counters, top of cabinets, floors, and desks.

Scrap, waste materials, dust, and trash: When these items are allowed to accumulate, the risk of fire is increased. Under the right conditions, the buildup of dust from wood, plastic, or certain metal operations can lead to a fire or explosion.

Plastic and foam items: The storage and use of foam or plastic cups, utensils, etc. close to heat sources should not be allowed. These materials are combustibles and can quickly start a fire (e.g. foam cups left next to a coffee maker). Plastic foam also burns rapidly and gives off dense toxic black smoke.

Ceiling clearance: 24 inches in non-sprinkle red buildings is strictly required for ceiling clearance. This will allow manual hose streams of water to effectively reach the top of burning piles and any adjunct storage. Ceiling clearances of 18 inches are required in splintered areas to allow the even distribution of water to the storage.

Means of egress: Combustible materials cannot be stored in corridors or egress paths that could jeopardize the safety of occupants leaving the building.

Equipment rooms: Combustible materials cannot be stored in boiler rooms, mechanical rooms, or electrical closets and equipment rooms.

Fueled equipment: Motorcycles, mopeds, lawn-care equipment, and portable cooking equipment cannot be stored inside buildings. The exception to these is those spaces that are designed and rated for the specific fueled equipment, such as a garage (contact the Environmental Health & Safety fire safety engineer to affirm the design specifications for a space in question).

Storage under canopies and roofs that project from the building: This would include loading docks, entrance canopies, etc. Storage is permitted if an automatic sprinkler system is present.

Storage heights: Piled storage in the open cannot exceed 20 feet. This will reduce the size of a potential fire and prevent tip-over potential.

Decorations: Decorations, signs, and other items should not be hung on or near the sprinkler head.

Obstructing portable fire extinguishers: Access to portable fire extinguishers should not be obstructed by other equipment, furniture, or miscellaneous storage. Extinguishers must be clearly visible with notification signs displayed.

Spills on floor: Any condition causing leaks or drips of flammable or combustible liquids should be corrected. The area of the spill should be cleaned immediately (contact Environmental Health & Safety for additional clean-up requirements).

Hoarding: Hoarding increases the risk of fire and possible structural damage due to increased weight loading on floors. Maintain premises free of unneeded and unnecessary combustible materials. Surplus or properly discard unused items being stockpiled or hoarded. Hoarding is a serious fire code violation and will be treated as such.

Clear passage: Keep passageways clear of obstacles, including furniture, trash, misc. storage and equipment.

Materials that spontaneously combust: Oily rags or other materials soaked in oil can start a fire by themselves if placed in areas where the air does not circulate. Contact Environmental Health & Safety for additional requirements for oily rags.


Interior decorations are a common factor in the spread of fire. Decorations used during the holiday seasons are always a large concern. It is necessary to ensure that all decorations used meet the requirements of safety and fire resistance.

Interior finish
: The following are requirements to consider when planning a renovation or refinish of walls, ceilings, and floors:

  • All new finishes must meet the minimum requirements of NFPA standards and the building code.
  • Finish materials in corridors, places of public assembly, and high hazard areas must be "Class A." This is the highest protection rating dealing with the flame spread and smoke production of a product or material.

Documentation: Any decoration, whether purchased from a store, dealer, catalog, or other business or if handmade, will require documentation acceptable to Environmental Health & Safety Fire Safety and/or the State Fire Marshal Office that the materials used meet the fire safety standards of fire resistance and safety.

Materials (fire resistance): All materials used in decorations must meet the minimum requirements of NFPA 701, Standard Methods of Fire Tests for Flame-Resistant Textiles and Films. Environmental Health & Safety Fire Safety will provide the specific requirements upon request. It is recommended that you contact Environmental Health & Safety Fire Safety for consultation prior to purchasing or installing decorations if you are unsure of its rating.

Amount of decorations: According to the Statewide Fire Prevention Code, the number of combustible materials posted on the walls should be limited to 10 percent of the existing wall space of an area. The number of decorations used will be limited by the following criteria:

  • Decorations must not obstruct any corridor, exit, or safety device. 
  • Decorations, paper, signs, etc. are not permitted on doors. 
  • No amount of any combustibles would aid in the rapid spread of fire such that it could endanger or entrap the occupants (e.g. plastic or chemical-based products such as banners, flags, tapestry, or foam material). 

The number of decorations may affect the occupant load of the area if such decorations cover any required floor area used in the calculation of the occupant load.

General requirements include: 

Vegetation -
Vegetation such as haystacks, leaves, branches, large amounts of plant cuttings, etc. may not be used in any Virginia Tech building unless approved by the Fire Safety division of Environmental Health & Safety  and documentation of adequate fire resistance is provided in advance of using the material.

Live Christmas trees -  May not be used inside any Virginia Tech building or facility.

Locations -Decorations must not be attached to, hung from, or obstruct any emergency device or fire protection equipment (e.g. fire alarm panel, portable fire extinguishers), including sprinkler heads and piping.

Combustible decorations must not be hung from ceilings in such a way that a fire could ignite the decorations and endanger the occupants before evacuation. Unauthorized items found during inspections will be required to be removed.

Electrical - Electrical lights, decorations, and cords must comply with the following conditions:

  • The device must be tested and approved by a recognized testing laboratory such as Underwriters' Laboratory (UL) or Factory Mutual (FM). The device must bear the appropriate label, sticker, or tag supplied by the manufacturer. 
  • Do not use electrical decorations or cords on combustible vegetation, dry trees, curtains, or any other combustible material that may be ignited by the heat or potential electrical short of the device. 
  • Multiple electrical devices may be plugged into an approved power strip, which incorporates a breaker, on/off switch, and is surge protected. Power strip must be plugged directly into a wall outlet. This allowance does not apply to heat-producing devices (e.g. space heaters), which must be plugged directly into an outlet. 
  • Electrical decorations must be turned off and should be unplugged at the end of the day or when the building will be unoccupied for an extended period. 
  • Electrical decorations or cords must not be laid or taped across floors where they could become damaged. 
  • Any electrical decoration or cord that is damaged, worn, showing signs of overheating, etc. must be taken out of service and repaired or replaced.

Fire-rated doors: Fire-rated doors are generally found at any opening to a corridor, stairwell, storage room, and mechanical and/or electrical equipment room. Contact the fire safety engineer for more information on identifying fire doors in your area. Blocking fire/smoke rated doors with wedges or other items allows smoke and fire to spread rapidly through a building, possibly preventing occupants from quickly evacuating during a fire emergency. Fire/smoke rated doors are allowed to be propped open during maintenance and housekeeping operations only when the attendant is in the immediate area.

Renovation projects: All building materials used in renovation and building projects must meet the state fire code requirements for fire resistance, and all work must be performed in accordance with the building code requirements. All renovation projects must comply with University Policy 5405.

Firestopping: All penetrations of floors, ceilings, and/or walls are avenues for smoke and heat travel. These penetrations must be properly fire stopped where required. Contact Environmental Health & Safety for more information on fire-stopping requirements. Ceiling tiles also provide a fire/smoke barrier and should be properly maintained. Ceiling tiles that are damaged, missing, or disturbed for any reason should be restored to their original condition or replaced.

Use of extension cords and multiple plug adapters: Multiple plug adapters without over-current protection are not permitted on campus.

Extension cords may only be used for temporary operations and must never be used as permanent wiring. Examples of temporary use would include housekeepers using a vacuum cleaner and portable AV equipment. Using the right size extension cord for the equipment being used is required.

Flexible cords and cables - including extension cords - must be protected from accidental damage, as might be caused, for example, by sharp corners, projections, and doorways, or other pinch points. They may not be run through holes in walls, ceilings, or floors, attached to building surfaces, or run concealed behind walls, floors, or above ceilings. 

Power strips with circuit breaker protection and 3-to-20-foot cords may be used in place of residential extension cords. Each power strip must be plugged directly into the wall outlet. The Fire Code prohibits "daisy" chaining power strips into one another.

If additional outlets are required place a work order with Facilities Services.

Electric space heaters: Many buildings on campus have uneven heat distribution, causing occupants to bring electric space heaters into their work areas. Be sure heaters have tip-over automatic safety cut-offs and that the wiring is in good condition. 3 feet clearance is required around the heater. Placing a space heater near or in contact with combustible materials can be a fire hazard and is prohibited. Heaters that use resistive coils (where the hot coil is visible from the exterior) are also prohibited.

Portable fans: Small portable fans help improve ventilation in an area. They can also pose a fire hazard if placed near combustible materials, around flammable liquids or where the blades of the fan can easily catch items. Make sure wiring on fans is not damaged and complies with the National Electrical Code. Contact Environmental Health & Safety Fire Safety for further information.

Wiring, switches, and plugs: Overloaded circuits, damaged wiring, and defective switches and outlets can all lead to electrical fires. Inspect all wiring, switches, and plugs. Report any damage found to the Division of Campus Planning, Infrastructure, and Facilities (540-231-4300) and have a qualified electrician make any repairs necessary before using.

Electrical outlets: All electrical outlets are required to have proper cover plates in place at all times. If a cover plate is found missing, report it to the Division of Campus Planning, Infrastructure, and Facilities (540-231-4300) to have the hazard corrected.

Junction boxes and electrical panels: Junction boxes and the breakers/disconnects in electrical circuit panels are required to be properly labeled advising what it controls for emergency response and maintenance personnel. Cover plates are required to be in place at all times. Open spaces in electrical panels can expose the wiring. All open spaces must be closed with the proper blanks. Tape and labels directly attached to breaker switches are not permitted.

Wet electrical cords: Do not use electric cords or equipment that is damp or wet unless they are approved for such use (contact the fire safety engineer for more information). Do not connect or disconnect electrical cords or equipment when your hands are wet.

Overloaded motors or circuits: Do not overload motors or circuits; overloaded motors and circuits can easily be a source of ignition.

Lighting fixtures: Report any problems with lighting fixtures to the Division of Campus Planning, Infrastructure, and Facilities (540-231-4300) immediately. Storage must be at least 3 feet below overhead light fixtures.

Faulty heating elements: Faulty heating elements can be a source of fire. Report any problem with heating equipment to the Division of Campus Planning, Infrastructure, and Facilities (540-231-4300) immediately.

Don't try to fix electrical problems yourself: Report all electrical problems immediately to the Division of Campus Planning, Infrastructure, and Facilities (540-231-4300) so that a qualified electrician can make the repairs.

Hazardous chemicals are defined by the fire code as those that pose an unreasonable risk to the health and safety of operating or emergency personnel, the public, and/or the environment if not properly controlled during storage, handling, use, disposal, and transportation. They are classified as physical hazards and may also pose health hazards.

Additional requirements may also apply to certain high-risk areas on campus, such as laboratories and other areas on campus. Be sure to check the Chemical Safety Program for specific requirements or contact the university chemical hygiene officer at 540-231-7611. 

Flammable liquid means any liquid having a flashpoint below 100° F. (37.8° C.), except any mixture having components with flashpoints of 100° F. (37.8° C.) or higher, the total of which make up 99 percent or more of the total volume of the mixture. Check your Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for characteristics or classification of a particular liquid.

Class I flammable liquids are divided into three classes as follows:

Class IA: Liquids having flashpoints below 73°F (22.8°C) and having a boiling point below 100°F (37.8°C).

Class IB: Liquids having flashpoints below 73°F (22.8°C) and having a boiling point at or above 100°F (37.8°C).

Class IC: Liquids having flashpoints at or above 73°F (22.8°C) and below 100°F (37.8°C).

Combustible liquid means any liquid having a flashpoint at or above 100°F (37.8°C) Combustible liquids are divided into two classes as follows:

Class II liquids: Liquids with flashpoints at or above 100°F (37.8°C) and below 140°F (60°C).

Class III liquids

  •  Liquids with flashpoints at or above 140°F (60°C) Class III liquids are subdivided into two subclasses:
  • Class IIIA liquids: Those with flashpoints at or above 140°F (60°C) and below 200°F (93.3°C).
  • Class IIIB liquids: Those with flashpoints at or above 200°F (93.3°C).

When a combustible liquid is heated for use to within 30° F. (16.7° C.) of its flashpoint, it must be handled in accordance with the requirements for the next lower class of liquids, with Class I liquids being the most volatile. Check your MSDS sheets for characteristics or classification of a particular liquid.

The quantity of flammable and combustible liquids you can have in storage and use should be limited to the minimum amount needed to support your daily operations. Do not stockpile materials and do not buy in bulk without prior approval from Environmental Health & Safety. 

There are also limitations on quantities stored in individual containers:

Condition Flammable Liquids (US gallons) Combustible liquids (US gallons)
  IA      IB     IC II     IIIA
Glass or approved plastic 1pt.    1qt.   1 1         1
Metal (other than DOT drum) 1         5       5 5        5
Safety cans 2        5       5 5       5
Note: Nearest metric size is also acceptable.    

The purchase and storage of flammable and combustible liquids in 55-gallon drums or larger containers is only be allowed with prior approval from Environmental Health & Safety.

General guidelines for hazardous chemicals            

Substitution: Where possible, flammable chemicals should be replaced by safer, less flammable ones to reduce the risk of fires. Any substituted material should be stable, non-toxic, and should either be nonflammable or have a high flashpoint.

Storage: The proper storage of flammable liquids in a work area is required to reduce the risk of fire and prevent health hazards. Remember that the quantities that can be stored in one location are limited. Storage areas should be provided with at least fire extinguishers, but a fire protection system must be considered for any large storage area. Flammable liquid storage cabinets should be used wherever flammable liquids are stored and used. Contrary to popular thinking, they are not designed to contain a fire but are designed to prevent a fire outside from reaching the contents of the cabinet for a period of 10 minutes - just enough time to allow escape from the area.

Handling: Flammable and combustible liquids require careful handling at all times. Containers should be tightly sealed when not in use, and liquids should be stored in an area where the temperature is stable to prevent a buildup of internal pressure due to vaporization. Safety cans are a good risk management tool where smaller quantities of liquids are handled. They prevent spillage and have spring-loaded safety caps that prevent vapors from escaping and act as a pressure vent if the can is engulfed in fire, preventing explosion and rocketing of the can, which could spread the fire. Users are expected to limit the risk of a fire by reducing the quantities of liquids located outside of storage cabinets/areas. Quantities of flammable and combustible liquids located outside of storage cabinets/areas should be restricted to one day's supply or to what can be used during a single shift.

Some flammable liquids, such as xylene, toluene, benzene, and gasoline have a tendency to accumulate a static electric charge. If the charge has been released, a spark can be produced and ignition can result. Most nonpolar solvents - they do not mix with water - have this characteristic. Polar solvents, such as acetone and other ketones and alcohols, don't usually present static charges. To prevent the build-up of static charge, it is important to bond metal dispensing and receiving containers together before pouring - each container is wired together and one container is connected to a good ground point to allow any charge that may develop to drain away safely. Because there is no easy way to bond plastic containers, their use should be limited to smaller sizes - no more than 4L.

Ventilation: To prevent the accumulation of vapors inside a flammable or combustible materials storage room or area, a continuous mechanical ventilation system must be in place. Both makeup and exhaust air openings must be arranged to provide air movement directly to the exterior of the building. Any exhaust ventilation ducts must be exclusive to the system and used for no other purposes.

Elimination of ignition sources: All nonessential ignition sources must be eliminated where flammable liquids are used or stored. The following is a list of the most common sources of ignition. 

  • Open flames from cutting and welding operations.
  • Furnaces
  • Matches
  • Heater, portable or fixed
  • Motors, switches, and circuit breakers need to be explosion-proof in areas where flammable liquids are used or stored.
  • Mechanical sparks from friction. Use non-sparking tools in these areas.
  • Proper grounding and bonding procedures must be used to eliminate static sparks when transferring flammable liquids to and from containers.
  • Smoking materials

Removal of Incompatibles: Materials that can contribute to a flammable liquid fire should not be stored with flammable liquids. (Examples: oxidizers and organic peroxides)

Aerosol spray cans: Read labels of all spray cans to identify those with flammable gas-propellants. Butane and propane is the most common propellant and should never be exposed to heat or flames.

Spills: If a spill occurs, employees should take the following actions:

  • Limit its spread by diking the spill with a suitable absorbent material
  • Minimize vapors by covering the surface of the spill with the same material.
  • Notify your supervisor immediately and contact Virginia Tech Police and/or Environmental Health & Safety for assistance and guidance.
  • Make sure all sources of ignitions are shut off or controlled.
  • Call Environmental Health & Safety to initiate the proper cleanup right away.

MSDS: Material Safety Data Sheets must be readily available at the location for emergency responders.

Hazard Identification Signs: Visible hazard identification signs are required for the specific material in stationary containers and aboveground tanks and at entrances to locations where hazardous materials are stored, dispensed, used, or handled.

Signs are required to alert occupants and emergency responders who may unknowingly enter an area containing hazardous materials.

The recommended hazard identification sign is the NFPA 704 diamond.

Container labeling must be in accordance with the Hazardous Chemical Management Program.

 


Flammable compressed gases hazards are it is easily ignitable or can be explosive when mixed with air.

The hazards posed by non-flammable compressed gases are toxicity, reactivity or the ability to support combustion.

Quantity limits: The quantities of flammable, oxidizing, and toxic gases that can be present on each floor of a building are very limited. You should plan to use the smallest size cylinder that will support normal operations, even if this means changing out the cylinder more frequently. When possible, use flammable gases that are mixed with inert gases, as these are not considered to be flammable (for example 5 percent hydrogen with the balance being nitrogen). Please contact Environmental Health & Safety at 540-231-3600 if you need more information.  

Flammable compressed gases hazards are it is easily ignitable or can be explosive when mixed with air.

The hazards posed by non-flammable compressed gases are toxicity, reactivity, or the ability to support combustion.

The following are requirements for the storage, handling, and use of all compressed gases whether they are flammable or nonflammable.

Labeling and marking: All compressed gas containers, cylinders, tanks, and systems must be marked according to ANSI A13.1, CGA C-7, or NFPA 704 depending on whether the compressed gas is stationary, portable, or piped. Contact Fire Safety if unclear about labeling or markings.

Inspection: Perform a visual inspection before you accept delivery of the cylinder from the vendor. If the cylinder appears to be damaged or defective, refuse delivery.

Routinely inspect cylinders that are in use for:

  • Leaking regulators;
  • Physical damage to the cylinder or valves; and/or
  • Dented, bulging, gouged, or corroded.

Do not use a cylinder that appears to be faulty. Take it out of service immediately and contact the vendor.

All gas cylinders must have proper labeling. Labeling must also indicate if the cylinder is full, empty, or in-service.

Security and protection: All compressed gas containers, cylinders, and tanks must be safeguarded to prevent dislodgement by accident or unauthorized personnel.

Physical protection may include guard posts, fenced-in areas, or specifically designed storage areas with approved separation.

Container supports: The danger associated with all compressed gases is the potential for energy release by container or fitting fixtures. For this reason, the fire code requires all compressed gas cylinders to be properly secured as a means of protection against physical or mechanical damage. This can be done by: 

  1. Securing containers, cylinders, and tanks to a fixed object with one or more restraints.
  2. Securing containers, cylinders, and tanks on a cart or other mobile device designed for movement.
  3. Nesting of containers, cylinders, and tanks at filling or servicing facilities being careful not to obstruct the means of egress.

Overpressure protection: All compressed gas cylinders, except those containing highly toxic gases, are equipped with pressure relief devices as a measure of protection against catastrophic container failure. These devices operate when compressed gas pressure, temperature or both exceed safe limits. Identifying this protection and making sure it has not been painted over, removed, damaged, contaminated, obstructed, or impaired is the responsibility of the person using the cylinder.

Housekeeping: Check valves, filters, flash arrestors, and other gas system apparatus must be maintained in good operating condition and free of dirt and debris that can clog filters and block valves.

Separation and storage: Separating gas system installations and incompatible gases (flammables and oxidizers) to reduce explosion hazards is one of the easiest safeguards to implement. Separation requirements include:

  • Incompatible materials;
  • Combustible waste, vegetation, and similar materials;
  • Ledges, platforms and elevators;
  • Temperature extremes;
  • Falling objects;
  • Heating;
  • Sources of ignition; and
  • Exposure to chemicals.

Cylinders can be separated with a barrier, such as a concrete block wall, at least 5 feet high, having a fire rating of at least one-half hour. Contact Environmental Health & Safety Fire Safety for different construction options.

A gas cylinder storage area should be located where they cannot be knocked over or damaged by falling objects and must be protected from vehicular impact.

As with any hazardous material, gas cylinders cannot be stored in public hallways or unprotected areas. Nonflammable cylinders should not be located closer than 5 feet and flammable cylinders no closer than 25 feet from an exit or unprotected opening such as a window.

When a cylinder is not being used, the valve should be closed and the valve protector secured in place. Never store gas cylinders near radiators or other heat sources.

Bulk storage rooms must be specifically designed for the purposes otherwise quantities will be limited. Contact Fire Safety to obtain approval for any new installation of a cylinder storage area inside or outside campus buildings.

Handling: Be sure to close all cylinder values when they are empty or not in use. Regulators must be removed and valve protection caps secured in place before moving cylinders.

When transporting cylinders, always use a cylinder truck or cart to avoid cylinders tipping, falling, or rolling. Never roll or drag a gas cylinder. Use appropriate lifting devices, such as cradles or nets when hoisting a cylinder with a crane or derrick for vehicle transport. Lifting a gas cylinder with a magnet, sling, or by the valve protection cap can lead to disaster and is prohibited. 

When opening a valve on a cylinder, stand to one side of the regulator and open the valve slowly.

Do not attempt or repair a gas cylinder regulator; call your distributor immediately.

Medical gas systems: Compressed gases intended for inhalation or sedation present additional hazards. Contact Fire Safety for additional requirements.

Additional information: Additional information can be found in NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) 55, 2016 edition, Standard for the Storage, Use and Handling of Compressed and Liquefied Gases in Portable Cylinders. A copy of this information can be obtained from the fire safety engineer at Environmental Health & Safety.

The Office of the University Building Official has primary responsibility for the proper management for, and enforcement of, the Virginia Uniform Statewide Building Code (VUSBC) to ensure that construction projects conducted on property owned by the university are completed in compliance with the code, related laws, and regulations. For additional information concerning this subject visit Building Code Compliance.

Requirement Description
Landscaping Landscaping must not:
  • Impede fire vehicle or emergency responder access to a building.
  • Obstruct access to fire hydrants, fire department connections, or other fire sprinkler test valves or other emergency devices.
  • Obstruct or cause a tripping hazard for occupants evacuating a building to a public way.
  • Obstruct exits from doors, windows, or other designated evacuation points from a building.
Breaches in fire or smoke rated barriers
  • Holes in fire-rated walls or smoke barriers will not be permitted unless the condition is allowed by the Virginia Statewide Uniform Building code or has been approved by the Virginia Tech Building Code Engineer.
  • Doors, windows, hatches, visual panels, etc. may not breach a firewall or smoke barrier unless allowed by the Virginia Statewide Uniform Building code or has been approved by the Virginia Tech Building Code Engineer.
  • Cables, equipment cords, etc. may not be placed in or run through any permitted opening in a rated firewall or smoke barrier, such as through a door or within ventilation ductwork.
Wood and sheet metal workshops
  • All wood and metal shavings produced by the work must be cleaned and removed from the building at the end of the job or the workday as appropriate.
  • All shops with machinery that produce hazardous shavings or dust must have an approved dust collection system. This system must be in operation at all times the equipment is in use.
Washer/Clothes Dryer operations
  • Empty the lint catcher in clothes dryers after each load.
  • Check the area behind the washer and dryer periodically for lint or trash build-up and clean as necessary.
  • Dryer vents must exhaust to the exterior of the building.
Automotive and industrial shops At the end of the workday, or as necessary:
  • Clean all work areas of oil to prevent a build-up.
  • Return all oils and flammables to their proper storage cabinets/areas.
  • Turn off all power equipment or unplug as necessary.
  • Turn off all fuel valves and power to such systems at the end of the workday.
All hazardous and flammable materials (paints, thinners, etc.) must be properly stored in a flammable storage cabinet or room when not in use. 

Parts washers may use flammable solvents. Check the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for the product used and follow the instructions on the MSDS and the guidance on page 15.

Spray finishing with flammable materials is only allowed in approved paint spray booths. Contact EHS Fire Safety Engineer for fire safety and building/fire code permit requirements for spray booths at 540-231-9068.
Art departments
  • When using flammable liquids (such as gasoline, kerosene, etc.) to create, or in a display of, artwork, written approval is required from EHS Fire Safety prior to the activity.
  • Electrical wiring and devices used in art creations or displays must meet the requirements of the National Electrical Code. For more information, see the Electrical Safety Program.
  • All hazardous and flammable materials (paints, thinners, etc.) must be properly stored in a flammable storage cabinet or room when not in use.
  • Heating devices such as blowtorches with open flames must be permitted with a Hot Work Permit.

Contractors conducting hot work

Contractors performing hot work shall maintain a Hot Work Permit Program and employee-training program that meets the OSHA requirements found in 29 CFR 1926.352 and ANSI Z49.1-88 and NFPA 51B. Examples of hot work include, but are not limited to, the use of open flames, compressed gases or supplied fuel burning, brazing, cutting, grinding, soldering, thawing pipe, torch-applied roofing, and welding.

A copy of the canceled permit(s) shall be provided to the project manager, hot work coordinator, or Environmental Health & Safety (upon request) no more than five (5) working days after completion of the work.

Fire prevention and suppression procedures for hot work operations

If not properly controlled, hot work operations present serious fire hazards that can lead to significant property damage, injury, and/or loss of life. To ensure safe hot work activities the following procedures have been established. These procedures apply to all work performed on university property.

Policy for work performed outside a designated area and/or temporary operation

A Hot Work Permit must be issued for any temporary operation that may produce high heat, sparks, and/or open flames. These operations include but are not limited to, the use of open flames, compressed gas or supplied fuel burning, brazing, cutting, grinding, torch soldering, thawing pipe, torch-applied roofing, and welding.

Procedure to secure a Hot Work Permit: 

  1. Any university employee performing work requiring a Hot Work Permit must secure the permit BEFORE any work is to begin. This will require advance notice. A Hot Work Permit can be obtained from the designated hot work coordinator(s), fire safety engineer or fire safety inspector. A listing of hot work coordinators, who will issue Hot Work Permits, can be obtained from the fire safety engineer.
  2. Hot work cannot begin until the worksite has been inspected for safety and the fire safety engineer, fire protection Inspector or hot work coordinator issuing the permit has signed the Hot Work Permit. All applicable safety precautions listed on the permit must be followed at all times during the hot work operation. The fire safety engineer, fire protection inspector, or hot work coordinator will inform you of the procedures to follow if the worksite is located in a building with a fire detection system.
  3. Persons doing hot work must indicate on the permit a start time and expiration date. The permit must be posted in plain view at the hot work location during the entire operation. After the Hot Work is completed the permit must be returned to the fire safety engineer, fire protection inspector, or hot work coordinator that issued the permit to indicate the job is completed. The fire safety engineer, fire protection inspector, or hot work coordinator (whoever issued the permit) will assure the worksite is free of any hot spots or potential fire hazards from the work done for up to 1 hour after work completion.
  4. It is important that the permit specifically states the location and start time of the hot work. This will allow the fire safety engineer, fire protection inspector, or hot work coordinator to respond to the permit as quickly as possible so the work process will not be delayed.
  5. Long-term jobs (of more than one workday) may have a permit issued for the entire work schedule but for no more than one month. The fire safety engineer, fire protection inspector, or hot work coordinator will routinely check the worksite to ensure the safety of the hot work being performed. If the work extends beyond the initial completion date, another permit must be secured for the additional time period.

Policy for work performed in shops and other designated hot work areas

Campus departments that perform hot work on a routine basis in a permanent shop or another designated work site will be exempt from the above permit requirements only if the area is inspected, approved, and issued a permit by the designated hot work coordinator. These permits must be renewed on a yearly basis (old permits should be kept in a file for 5 years) or when changes in the shop warrant a repeat inspection. When approved by the inspector a sign will be posted at the worksite that reads "Hot Work Approved Area." The Coordinator will re-inspect these areas during his or her annual fire and/or shop inspection of the approved area. Any deficiencies to the designated hot work area or shop must be corrected to continue the designation of "Hot Work Approved Area."

Open burning is defined as any open/exposed flame, whether indoors or outdoors, that could cause a fire. Examples are candles, incense, bonfires, campfires, leaf burning, artwork involving flames, and pyrotechnics of any kind. Pyrotechnics are not covered in this section but can be found in the following section.

Approvals and permit application process

Open burning on any Virginia Tech property must be approved in writing by the fire safety engineer at Environmental Health & Safety and may also require approval by the Virginia State Fire Marshal's Office.

Open flames and burning - indoor

Open flames indoors, particularly when such burning will activate any type of fire alarm detection/suppression system, is normally prohibited. Special exceptions may be authorized under the following conditions: 

  1. A written request is sent to Environmental Health & Safety using the "Open Burning Permit Application;" see Appendix D on page 45, at least ten (10) working days in advance of the event or operation.
  2. The proposed burning will not endanger the occupants or facility.
  3. The proposed burn location will not block any emergency equipment or access to any building EXIT.
  4. The host will be responsible for providing a "Fire Watch" of the entire building during the time of the open burning if any fire safety system must be shut down.
  5. The host must contact Environmental Health & Safety, Virginia Tech Police Department, and the occupants of the building 24 hours in advance of the event or operation for final coordination.
  6. The host will be responsible for providing portable fire extinguishers and emergency procedures trained personnel in the area of the open burn. Contact Environmental Health & Safety for this training.

Open burning - outdoors

Open burning outdoors may be authorized under the following conditions: 

  1. A written request is sent to Environmental Health & Safety using the "Open Burning Permit Application" at least 10 working days in advance of the event or operation.
  2. The proposed burning will not endanger any adjacent buildings, vehicles or vegetation.
  3. The burn location will not block access by emergency vehicles to any building, street or emergency equipment.
  4. Open flame fires will not be within 50 feet of any flammable storage area (the distance may be increased according to the size of the event) or 25 feet of any building, vehicle or vegetation.
  5. The host will be responsible for providing portable fire extinguishers and emergency procedures trained personnel in the area of the open burn. Contact Environmental Health & Safety for this training.
  6. The host will contact Environmental Health & Safety, Virginia Tech Police, and occupants of adjacent buildings 24 hours in advance of the event or operation for final coordination.
  7. The host of the open burning will be responsible for complete extinguishment and removal of all materials used in the open burning activity.
  8. A fire watch (up to an hour) will be conducted (as determined by Environmental Health & Safety) to ensure there is no residual heat left in the material.

Approval for the display of fireworks on state property, including Virginia Tech property, must be obtained from the State Fire Marshal's Office by obtaining a permit. Information about how to apply for the permit can be found at http://www.vafire.com/state_fire_marshal/fireworks.htm.

It is important to note that the State Fire Marshal Office is not obligated to issue its approval if they do not receive all the necessary information 30 workdays prior to the requested display date.

In addition, the State Fire Marshal Office approval may stipulate certain conditions and approval for a specific date and time that is not transferable to any other date, time, or activity.

Coordination with Environmental Health & Safety is also required to assure notification of all emergency services agencies.

University Policy No. 5406 addresses the requirement, policy, and procedures for temporary facilities, tents, and stages. It can be found at http://www.policies.vt.edu/5406.pdf.

All requests for tent permits must go through the University Building Official's Office (UBO).

Tents greater than 900 square feet or having occupancy of over 50 persons are required to apply for a state permit no less than 30 days in advance. Information and applications can be found at the University Building Official's website.

Environmental Health & Safeety must be notified a minimum of 7 days in advance to schedule the required fire inspection. Fire inspections are conducted for all anchored and staked tents on state property. A sample of the inspection form can be found below. The following list will be used during the inspection to ensure safety as required by the fire code.

Tents under 900 sq feet (except for recreational camping tents and personal pop-up non-anchored tents):

At least one multi-purpose (ABC) fire extinguisher for each tent with a minimum 4-A rating, or two with a minimum 2-A rating each.

Tent is placed away from all buildings minimum 20 feet.

Tent is not blocking any means of egress from other structures, sidewalks or emergency fire lanes.

Cooking/open flames directly under the tent are not permitted. State Fire Code Officials prefer electrical devices or move cooking away from tent area a minimum of 20 feet.

Tents over 900 square feet or more than 50 occupants, approved by the University Building Official:

Tent application has been submitted to and has been approved by the University Building Official. Miss Utility must have been contacted and the location of utilities must be marked (University Policy 5406). The applicationt must include a detailed site plan, certificate of flame resistance for the tent, detailed floor plan, including furniture and equipment arrangement within the tent or structure indicating egress paths and exits, and a Virginia Tech map annotating where the site is in reference to the campus as a whole.

On-site inspection requirements:

At least one multi-purpose (ABC) fire extinguisher for each tent with a minimum 4-A rating, or two with a minimum 2-A rating each. Tent is placed away from all buildings minimum 20 feet. The University Building Official can grant exceptions for this distance requirement on a case-by-case basis. If you foresee that minimum distance can be a problem, further explanation may be required (such as the structure of building posing the problem, tent not being used for assembly purposes, obstructed means of egress or emergency lanes if proper distances are maintained or improper distances to cooking surfaces if minimum distances are maintained). Requirements include:

  • Tents may not block any means of egress from other structures, sidewalks or emergency fire lanes.
  • If the tent is air-supported, all items in the tent must be at least 3 feet away from the walls of the tent.
  • Cooking with open flames and all other unprotected open flames are not permitted. Statewide Fire Prevention Code requires a minimum of 20 feet distance between the electrical cooking devices or the cooking activity and the tent. Electric warming trays and other warming devices are permitted.
  • All tents anchors and structural supports are properly secured.
  • Offensive or objectionable activity that creates an unsafe condition is prohibited. The Fire Code Official reserves the right to order the activity to cease in the event that it creates or adds to a hazardous or objectionable situation.

To obtain more information, or to apply online for a tent permit, visit  http://www.ubo.vt.edu/tent_permit.aspx.

Approval in accordance with the requirements of the Statewide Fire Prevention code is required prior to the use of all special effects equipment on Virginia Tech property. The following is a list of those types of activities requiring a Special Effects Permits:

  • Smoke and haze machines
  • Fog machines
  • Indoor and outdoor use of gunpowder or other small amounts of explosives
  • Special use of temporary electrical installations
  • Stage sets that are comprised of large amounts of combustible materials
  • Stage weapons and firearms.

An application must be made in writing at least ten (10) days prior to the event. A copy of the Special Effects Permit Application can be found in Appendix F.

Buildings: A comprehensive fire and life safety inspection of all university buildings is conducted by Environmental Health & Safety to ensure compliance with fire codes. Reports are sent to the involved departments for action. Identified hazards must be corrected in a timely manner unless other arrangements have been discussed and agreed to by Environmental Health & Safety.

The State Fire Marshal's Office conducts acceptance-testing inspections of all fire protection systems, which is coordinated through the Office of the University Building Official.

Equipment: All building service equipment inspections are administrated through the Division of Campus Planning, Infrastructure, and Facilities. Inspection certificates are placed near each piece of equipment if practical. The records from the equipment inspections are maintained by the Division of Campus Planning, Infrastructure, and Facilities and made available to Environmental Health & Safety and/or the State Fire Marshall Office when requested for review.

Fire Protection and Suppression Systems: All building fire suppression and detection equipment is maintained and inspected by the Division of Student Affairs for residential and dining buildings and by the Division of Campus Planning, Infrastructure, and Facilities for all other buildings. Copies of inspection reports are made available to Environmental Health & Safety and/or the State Fire Marshal Office when requested for review. Portable fire extinguishers are also maintained and inspected by these departments; however, fire extinguishers located in laboratories must be inspected monthly by laboratory personnel, with the inspection being recorded on the tag attached to the extinguisher.

Residence Halls: Code compliance inspections are conducted in the Residence Halls every year by the State Fire Marshall Office. At least 20 percent of all student rooms are randomly inspected along with all common areas of the building for fire code compliance. Personnel from Environmental Health & Safety and the Division of Student Affairs accompany the State Fire Marshall Office on these inspections. When violations are observed:

  • The State Fire Marshall Office records the violation.
  • Environmental Health & Safety Fire Safety issues a notice of violation to the occupant if available and/or leaves the notice in the student's room at the time of inspection.
  • Notice along with the applicable section of the State Fire Marshall Office Report is forwarded to the area coordinator and Student Affairs staff as soon as it is issued.
  • Students and Student Affairs staff are given at least 30 days to correct the violation, after which a follow-up inspection of the building is scheduled.
  • Failure to correct any violation may result in disciplinary action as outlined in the Hokie Handbook.

Residential advisors perform periodic fire safety inspections using a form provided by Housing and Residence Life. This includes an inspection of all fire extinguishers, storage rooms, hallways, exit lights, and other relevant fire and life safety requirements as stated in the program. The form is signed and returned to Housing and Residence Life for any further action.

The best way to avoid a fire is to be knowledgeable of fire hazards and how to prevent them. Environmental Health & Safety Fire Safety will provide training to any Virginia Tech employee, staff, faculty, and student organization upon request.

New employees: All new employees are sent a "Welcome to Virginia Tech" email which outlines the university's expectations for safety compliance. Supervisors are required to review the fire hazards and emergency procedures in the workplace with new employee's during the first few days of employment.

Employees: A variety of fire and life safety training programs are available for all Virginia Tech employees. A complete listing of all the trainings offered by Environmental Health & Safety can be found here.

Training for targeted audiences on fire and life safety or the use of portable fire extinguishers can be arranged by contacting Environmental Health & Safety at 540-231-3600.

Students: Environmental Health & Safety and Housing and Residence Life work together each year to provide fire and life safety education to students living on campus. Each year area coordinators, resident directors, and resident advisors are required to attend fire and life safety training during their orientation at the beginning of the fall semester. All students living in campus-owned residential buildings are encouraged to take an online computer "Fire and Life Safety" training course. This course will inform students on how to protect themselves and reduce the risk of fire in their building.

Environmental Health & Safety offers training on the following topics:

  • Flammable and Combustible Liquids
  • Resident Hall Fire Safety Training
  • Hot Work Permit Coordinator Training
  • Compressed Gas Cylinders Training

The primary purpose of fire prevention planning is to prevent fires from starting. Fire prevention procedures are for preventing, detecting, and extinguishing fires. Fire prevention starts with identifying fire hazards. The requirements related to fire prevention planning can be found here.

Employees or attendees of assembly occupancies must be trained in emergency evacuation procedures and practice this training during drills. Employees who have been assigned fire response duties must also be instructed in the proper use of portable fire extinguishers and other manual fire suppression equipment, where provided. Environmental Health & Safety personnel are available to provide training for all persons with this responsibility upon request.

Refer to Environmental Health & Safety's Portable Fire Extinguisher online program.

Appendix A  (doc | pdf)
Download the File Drill Report Form

Appendix B  (doc | pdf)
Download the fire prevention plan template

Appendix C  (pdf)
View an example of a hot work permit

Appendix D  (pdf)
View an example of an open flame and burn permit application

Appendix E  (doc | pdf)
Download the tent/temporary structure fire inspection form

Appendix F  (pdf)
Download the special effects permit

Appendix G  (pdf)
Download the planning and management guide for public assembly events

In accordance with the Higher Education Opportunity Act (P.L. 110-315) of 2008, Environmental Health & Safety maintains statistics concerning the number of fires and the cause of each fire; the number of injuries related to a fire that result in treatment at a medical facility; the number of deaths related to a fire; and the value of property damage caused by a fire; a description of each on-campus student housing facility fire safety system, including the fire sprinkler system; the number of regular mandatory supervised fire drills; policies or rules on portable electrical appliances, smoking, and open flames (such as candles), procedures for evacuation, and policies regarding fire safety education and training programs provided to students, faculty, and staff; and plans for future improvements in fire safety, if determined necessary.

The reports for the Blacksburg Campus, Alexandria Campus, and the Switzerland Campus, will be published annually and will also be made available on this website when it is published. The fire log for the Blacksburg campus is maintained by the Virginia Tech Police Department, which also issue the annual Clery Report. If you would like to review other fire statistics, please contact the individual listed below for assistance.


Frequently Asked Questions

Multiple plug adapters are not permitted on campus. Extension cords may only be used for temporary operations and must never be used as permanent wiring. Examples would include housekeepers using a vacuum cleaner and portable AV equipment. Using the right size extension cord for the equipment being used is required. Power strips with circuit breaker protection and 3-to-20 foot cords may be used in place of residential extension cords. Each power strip must be plugged directly into the wall outlet. The Fire Code prohibits “daisy” chaining power strips into one another. If additional outlets are required place a work order with the Division of Campus Planning, Infrastructure, and Facilities.

Items should not be posted on ceilings. Combustible materials must be at least 18 inches away from the ceiling in an area with a fire suppression system and 24 inches away from the ceiling in an area with no fire suppression system.

These items are allowed in dorm rooms as long as they are fire-treated. An item is considered fire-treated only if it is indicated as such by a tag or certificate provided by the manufacturer.

Small portable fans help improve ventilation in an area. They can also pose a fire hazard if placed near combustible materials, around flammable liquids or where the blades of the fan can easily catch items. Make sure wiring on fans is not damaged and complies with the National Electrical Code.

Halogen lights are prohibited on campus. They have lost their UL rating and are considered fire hazards.

Many buildings on campus have uneven heat distribution, causing occupants to bring electric space heaters into their work areas. If used improperly, however, electric space heaters can increase the risk of fire. If you wish to use a space heater, be sure you comply with the following:

  • The heater must be electrically powered and listed by Underwriters Laboratories (UL) or approved by Factory Mutual (FM). Tags or labels indicating the device has been tested and approved by either of these agencies can be found on the electrical cord or die-stamped on the heater itself.
  • Space heaters with heated metal coils are not permitted. A guard or screen must cover the heating element.
  • The heater may only be located on the floor. Heaters located on filing cabinets, tables, desks, or equipment are more susceptible to being knocked over, resulting in accidents or fires.
  • Electric space heaters shall only be operated in locations for which they are listed. For example, electric space heaters may not be located in areas where flammable liquids are stored or used unless they are listed for that location.
  • Electric space heaters must be plugged directly into an approved receptacle.
  • Electric space heaters shall not be plugged into extension cords.
  • Electric Space heaters shall have tip-over automatic safety cut-offs.
  • The electric cord for the heater must be in good condition. If cords or plugs are damaged, the unit must be removed from service. Do not run the electric cord under carpets or paper, or across aisles or other walking paths.
  • A minimum of 3 feet clearance is required around the heater. Placing an electric space heater near or in contact with combustible materials can be a fire hazard. Never place anything on top of a space heater.
  • The manufacturer's use and care booklet must be read and followed.
  • Only electric heaters are allowed. Gasoline, kerosene, and propane heaters are not permitted.
  • The heating element cannot exceed a temperature of 212°F (100°C).
  • Space heaters are not allowed in residence halls.

Is training mandatory? If so, when? Yes, for personnel who are expected to use fire extinguishers, such as chemical laboratory personnel, those performing welding/cutting (i.e. "hot work"), those serving as a fire watch, those with crowd management duties, residential housing/area managers, and housekeeping supervisors who perform monthly inspections of portable fire extinguishers.

Class length: 1 hour.

Available online: Yes.

When is refresher training required? Every 1 year for the personnel listed above, every 2 years for all others.

Please see the online class schedule for more information.

Is training mandatory? If so, when? No. Departments that store/use flammable or combustible liquids outside of a research laboratory are required to develop a fire prevention plan. It is also recommended that all departments develop such a plan. Environmental Health & Safety supports this effort by offering training for the departmental program coordinator.

Class length: 1 hour.

Available online: No. Contact 540-231-3600 to request this training.

When is refresher training required? Never.

Please see the online class schedule for more information.

Is training mandatory? If so, when? Yes. Departments that perform welding, cutting, brazing, torch cutting, soldering and similar open-flame operations must designate a hot work coordinator and implement a hot work permit program.

Class length: 1 hour.

Available online: Yes.

When is refresher training required? Every 5 years.

Please see the online class schedule for more information.

Please contact 540-231-3600 for assistance.

All requests for tent permits must go through the Events Planning Office and the University Building Official's Office.

Fire drill frequency is determined by the statewide fire prevention code. Refer to Chapter IV under the Fire and Life Safety Program for the most current requirements for your occupancy classification.

Handling and storage requirements vary based on the flammable or combustible classification of material. Please refer to the Hazardous Chemicals section of the Fire and Life Program for further details. 

The answer, in most cases, is yes. Storage of equipment or materials in hallways, even on a temporary basis, can seriously impact the safety of building occupants and first responders. Consider, for example, that if a fire occurs, visibility will be greatly reduced. If you are trying to exit the building - perhaps by crawling on the floor to minimize your exposure to smoke--those items in the hallway could impede your ability to get out quickly. Or, if they're easily movable (rolling carts, for example) and you bump into them, they could actually obstruct your exit access.

Also, during a fire, the first responders may be dragging fire hoses down the corridor. If there is storage or easily moved equipment located in the hallway, the hose could catch on to these stored items and either obstruct the hallway or impede response efforts.

In general, any furniture located in the means of egress must be approved for that location. When doing our evaluation, Environmental Health & Safety will look at the configuration of the hallway, the construction and materials used in the furniture, if applicable, and other factors. If you are planning to place equipment or furniture in hallways or lobbies, please contact Environmental Health & Safety first to make sure your plan is appropriate and safe. Additionally, never store anything in stairwells.

Hot work, open flames and burning, pyrotechnics, fireworks, special effects, temporary facilities, tents, and stages are events that require permits.

Contractors working at the university are expected to observe and abide by state and federal codes and regulations as well as policies and procedures established for the university community. Refer to Virginia Tech’s Safety Requirements for Contractors and Subcontractors for detailed information.

Each university department or unit must develop an Emergency Action Plan that focuses on the actions of the occupants in the building during emergencies. The fire evacuation plan is a part of each department's emergency action plan and covers the overall management of people to prepare for and define the roles for evacuation and relocation of occupants during a fire emergency.

A false alarm is an intentional activation of a fire alarm when no emergency exists. This does not include malfunctions of the alarm system. False alarms have the potential for causing panic and harm to building occupants unnecessarily. Anyone caught making a false alarm at Virginia Tech will be subject to any criminal charges filed and referred for disciplinary action by the appropriate university department.

In addition to emergency egress routes, assembly areas seating more than 50 people (e.g classrooms, conference rooms) are required to have maximum occupancy load signs posted. To obtain the maximum load for a specific area, please contact 540-231-4207.

Power strips are temporary taps that must be used correctly and safely in any setting. Power strips must be plugged directly into premise receptacles and cannot be plugged into another power strip or extension cord.

Only power strips that are UL approved, provide overcurrent protection, and are grounded may be used on campus. Power strips must be used in accordance with the manufacturer's recommendations, and shall not be overloaded. Most power strips are designed for low-wattage appliances such as lamps, computers, radios, etc. Large appliances, such as refrigerators, microwaves, tools/equipment/machinery should be plugged directly into premise receptacles and not into power strips.

For more information, contact your safety representative or Environmental Health & Safety at 540-231-2341.

University personnel using hazardous materials in their research and/or teaching laboratories, or any other space where chemicals are used/stored must generate an inventory listing and update it annually. This policy resulted from negotiations with the State Fire Marshall related to chemical use and storage, and concerns raised by accidents at other universities as well as the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The registration process has been vetted through the University Environmental Health and Safety Committee as well as the Chemical Safety and Hazardous Materials Management Committee, and the Occupational Health and Safety Committee. Registration is completed through the Safety Management System. For additional information, please contact Zack Adams, 540-231-5985.

Smoking is prohibited in facilities owned or leased by the university. Outdoors, discarded smoking materials carelessly tossed in waste containers or into landscaping can easily start a fire. Use approved waste containers to discard all smoking materials properly.

Ceiling clearance: 24 inches in non-sprinkler buildings is strictly required for ceiling clearance. This will allow manual hose streams of water to effectively reach the top of burning piles and any adjunct storage. Ceiling clearances of 18 inches are required in sprinkler areas to allow the even distribution of water to the storage.

Means of egress: Combustible materials cannot be stored in corridors or egress paths that could jeopardize the safety of occupants leaving the building.

Equipment rooms: Combustible materials cannot be stored in boiler rooms, mechanical rooms, or electrical closets and equipment rooms.

Fueled equipment: Motorcycles, mopeds, lawn-care equipment, and portable cooking equipment cannot be stored inside buildings. The exception to these is those spaces that are designed and rated for the specific fueled equipment, such as a garage.

Storage under canopies and roofs that project from the building: This would include loading docks, entrance canopies, etc. Storage is permitted if an automatic sprinkler system is present.

Storage heights: Piled storage in the open cannot exceed 20 feet. This will reduce the size of a potential fire and prevent tip-over potential.

The area covered by any postings should not exceed 10 percent of the overall wall space (including the ceiling space).

The area covered by any decorations should not exceed 10 percent of the overall wall space (including the ceiling space).

Each university department or unit must develop an Emergency Action Plan (EAP) that outlines the actions occupants in the building must take during emergencies. Fire safety planning is a part of each department's Emergency Action Plan and must include, among other things, an emergency egress or escape route map of the area. These maps should be included in your EAP.  For information in obtaining evacuation maps, please contact the Environmental Health & Safety main office at 540-231-3600.

Egress routes must be prominently marked with Exit signs where the exit path is not immediately obvious. Emergency evacuation routes must graphically illustrated and posted in residence rooms and hotel sleeping room.  


Documents


Contact Information

Phone: 540-231-3600
Email: firesafe@vt.edu