FAQs


FAQs

Here you can find a list of frequently asked questions by Columbia residents in regards to fire safety on and off campus.

How can I contact CU Fire Safety?

You can reach CU Fire Safety by phone at 212-854-8518 or by email at firesafety@columbia.edu

Where am I allowed to cook?

Residents may cook in designated kitchen areas only, with university provided cooking appliances. Some exceptions may apply; please contact CU Fire Safety for more information.

How do I know if the smoke detector in my room is functioning?

Facilities Operations performs code required inspections of heat and smoke detectors. 

What do I do if I hear a fire alarm in my building?

When the fire alarm is activated in your building, immediately proceed to the nearest exit and leave the building. Know the location of all exits in your building. Remain outside until you are advised by Public Safety, Fire Safety or the FDNY when it is safe to return. If you can provide any information such as if you smelled or saw smoke or any persons who may still be in the building, report it to the Public Safety Office at the front desk or fire officials on the scene.

Will there be fire drills and how many?

Yes, and when the alarm sounds, evacuate the building immediately. For student residence halls, there will be four drills per year. For academic buildings, there will be three drills per year. Regardless, if the alarm is for a fire drill or caused by an actual fire or emergency, you must immediately evacuate the building by the nearest exit.

Is there a schedule for Fire Drills?

No - FDNY code requires that fire drills are unannounced and to be held at various times of the day. Everyone must be prepared for a fire or any other emergency at any time.

Do I have to evacuate for a Fire Drill?

Yes, it is mandatory and you must evacuate at all times when the fire alarm activates. Fire drills are conducted at various times of the day. There is no difference between a fire drill and an actual fire alarm. You cannot presume that the alarm is for a fire drill, you must treat every alarm as if it was an actual fire.

What do I do if I see smoke or fire?

  1. Activate the fire alarm using a pull station. This will alert others in the building that there is an emergency.
  2. Evacuate the building! If possible, help others who may need assistance due to limited mobility or another impairment. DO NOT jeopardize or place yourself in a dangerous situation.
  3. Remain outside until instructed to return by Public Safety. If you have knowledge of the situation (where a fire is located or what may have caused the alarm), notify Public Safety. Any information provided will greatly assist the FDNY and the Fire Response Team.

What if I awake to a smoke condition in my room?

Crawl out of your bed and get on the floor and make your way to the exit door. STAY LOW and GO! Feel the door to the room before exiting, if the door is hot or the hallway is filled with heavy smoke, stay inside your room. Keep the door closed but unlocked. Place wet towels (if available) at the bottom of the door to prevent smoke from entering. Call Public Safety or 911 and advise them of your location and specific needs. Go to the window and signal to the fire department that someone is in the room (possibly with a towel or bed sheet).

What if I have or there is someone on my floor with a physical disability?

If possible, move towards exit stairs or proceed as directed by overhead announcements, Public and/or Fire Safety. Call Public Safety and give your current location and any needs required. If immediate physical assistance is needed, alert exiting occupants of your presence and ask them for assistance and/or to notify Public Safety of your location. Do not use elevator, unless directed by emergency response personal. Sometimes evacuation to a lower floor or a remote stairway will provide an area refuge until more assistance can arrive.

What are the most common causes of fire alarms?

Cooking: Most often food is left unattended which causes the food to burn. All cooking must be attended whether if it’s being done on a stove, in an oven or in a microwave. Do not use high flames when cooking as it caused food to burn. Be aware of smoke conditions and make sure exhaust fans are on and windows are open. Check oven before turning on, as left overs or a dirty oven can create a smoke condition. Electric steam kettles are another source of fire alarms, do not use in your room and do not operate under a smoke detector.

Hair care equipment: Hair curlers, hair dryers, hair straighteners and even hair spray are the second most common cause of alarms. These items produce hot steam, burning odors, blow dust, and create vapors that can activate an alarm. When using these devices, look up and make sure you are not operating under a smoke detector.

Electrical fires: Many fires occur due to overloading electrical outlets and circuits. Only use the proper UL rated surge protectors. Do not use extension cords. Plug refrigerators, AC units and other large electrical appliances directly into an outlet. Turn off all appliances when finished using. Do not place any electrical equipment near water.

What fire safety equipment is in my building?

A building's safety equipment varies depending on the building's use, date of construction, and date(s) of renovation. All buildings are protected by smoke and/or heat detectors and active alarm systems including fire alarm pull stations located on all floors. Fire extinguishers are also located on each floor. Note: For information on specific buildings, please refer to this list of equipment by building.

What are fire doors and what do they do?

Fire doors are a critical part of the buildings fire protection system. Fire doors, when properly closed, prevent the spread of smoke, heat and fire. Stairway exit doors are fire doors as well as doors to dormitory rooms. If a door self closes, consider it a fire door. It’s a violation of Fire Code to leave or choke fire doors open. One of the most important action to take if there is a fire in your building, is to close doors as you exit.

Is it okay to leave my room door chocked open?

No. All room and stairway doors should never be chocked or held open.  Open doors allow fire to spread rapidly.  Doors must be kept closed to confine a fire so occupants can get out safety.

Can I hang items off the sprinkler pipes?

No items can be hung off any exposed pipes or sprinkler pipes. Any items found hanging from these pipes must be removed. Items hung on sprinkler pipes may prevent the proper operation of a sprinkler during a fire.

Is it okay to store some of my items in the corridor or stairwells?

No, storage is prohibited in corridors and stairwells. These area must be kept clear at all times. In case of a fire or emergency, the corridors and stairways provide the means of egress to get out of the building safely.

What items are allowed in Residence Halls? What is prohibited?

Click Here for More Information.