What to do in Case of a Fire


In Case of a Fire

CALL 4-5555 from a Campus Phone 

CALL (212) 854-5555 from non-campus phones 


  • If you discover a fire, immediately pull the nearest fire alarm. There is a fire alarm box on every floor of most buildings on campus. 
  • Call the emergency number and report the fire to Public Safety, Public Safety will contact the Fire Department. 
  • If you are off-campus, dial 911. 
  • Leave the building at once. Stand by to direct emergency personnel to the location of the fire. 
  • If the fire is small and not spreading quickly and you have been appropriately trained, you may try to extinguish the fire yourself with extinguishers located throughout all campus buildings, but only after you have sounded the fire alarm.
  • The University Fire Safety Office staff offers fire extinguisher training to various groups throughout the year. If you would like to receive such training, email Fire Safety at: firesafety@columbia.edu.
  • If you are not completely certain about how to operate a fire extinguisher, do not attempt to put out a fire yourself.
  • University Residence Halls and many other campus buildings have automatic fire detection equipment that sounds an alarm and transmits it to Public Safety and to the Fire Department
  • If you hear an alarm sounding in your building, do not assume that it is a drill or test. All building alarm systems are tested as required by law, but these tests are announced in advance. Treat every alarm as an emergency unless you have received advance notification stating otherwise.
  • If an alarm sounds, exit the building immediately. The alarm may be a patter of gongs, a continuously ringing bell, or horns. Feel doors before opening them to be sure that there is no fire danger on the other side. If you must enter a smoke-filled room or hallway, cover your nose and mouth with a wet cloth and crawl, keeping your head near the floor, to the nearest exit.
  • If you cannot get out of the building because of heat or smoke, stay where you are, shut the door and await assistance from the Fire Department. Stuff the gap under the door with sheets, clothes or blankets and open the window. Call Public Safety to give your location and wave a brightly colored garment or towel from the window -- the Fire Department will be looking for this sign.
  • If it is safe to leave the room, do so, and close the door behind you. Take any keys so that you can re-enter the room if exit is not possible. Do not waste time collecting personal valuables. Never use an elevator during a fire emergency. Always use fire stairs. If you are injured or disabled, stay in the room and make your presence known to other occupants and to Security by telephone. Emergency personnel will assist you in leaving the building.


  • Keep doorways, corridors and stairwells clear and unobstructed and keep fire doors closed. 
  • Make sure that all electrical appliances and cords are in good condition and are UL approved. 
  • Do not overload electrical outlets. 
  • Use fuse-protected multi-outlet power strips and extension cords whereever necessary. 
  • Turn off all lights and electrical appliances when you leave your room, office or apartment. 
  • Do not smoke in bed. 
  • Extinguish all smoking materials properly and thoroughly. 
  • Empty wastebaskets regularly. 
  • Do not store flammable substances in your room, office or apartment. 
  • Candles and live holiday decorations, such as trees and wreaths, are not permitted in residence halls without prior approval by the Fire Safety Office or University Residence Halls (URH). 
  • Artificial greens must have certificates of flame proofing. 

For more information, see: facilities.columbia.edu/fire_safety 

John LaPerche 
Director of Fire Safety 

Phone: (212) 854-8518