Skip to main content

The Fire Safety and Emergency Response Section of Environment, Health and Safety is responsible for enforcing the NC Building and Fire Codes, investigating fire incidents, developing evacuation procedures and maintaining fire alarm and extinguishing systems across campus.

We accomplish this by providing training sessions on fire safety and using a fire extinguisher. We want you to be prepared and confident to handle a small incident if one would occur. Your safety is paramount while enjoying your time as a Tar Heel!  If your department is interested in fire safety training, please reach out to us to schedule a session at firesafety@ehs.unc.edu.

The basic types of fires are classified as A, B, C, and D as defined below:

Class A
Ordinary combustible materials, such as wood, cloth, paper, rubber, and many plastics
Class B
Flammable and combustible liquids
Class C
Energized electrical equipment
Class D
Combustible metals, such as magnesium, titanium, zirconium, sodium, and potassium

On campus there are two types of extinguishers available: ABC and BC (CO2). ABC type fire extinguishers will be found throughout campus, including residence halls.  CO2 (BC) type extinguishers are only provided in laboratories and mechanical rooms.

ABC fire extinguishers have a gauge that should always point in the “green”. If not, contact fire safety (firesafety@ehs.unc.edu), and we will replace it.  If you discharge a fire extinguisher, contact us to replace it even if it is still in the “green”.

Fire Safety is required to conduct a fire drill for every occupied building on campus at least once per year. Residence halls require four drills per year including one within ten days after the start of class and another after sunset but before dawn. These drills are not to be distinguishable between real alarms.

It is against NC Fire Code to resist evacuation during a fire drill.

When the fire alarm sounds, take the following action.

  1. Evacuate immediately at the closest exit.
  2. When leaving the building, close all windows and doors. This will stop the spread of fire.
  3. If you encounter smoke, drop down to the floor and stay low until you reach the exit.
  4. When evacuating the building, always use the stairs, never use the elevator! Stairwells are fire rated for egress protection; elevator shafts are not.
  5. If physically impaired, know your places of refuge and shelter in place. Call 9-1-1 and tell them your name, building, and location within the building (floor, room number, etc).
  6. Meet at the designated assembly area, which will be at least 50 feet from the building.

During an evacuation, stay calm and be efficient.  Always know at least two ways in and out of your building and area.  If you are working in a laboratory, secure any hazardous chemicals/materials prior to evacuating.

Do not re-enter the building for any reason!
On-campus residence halls all have fire alarm systems.

Cooking fires are the leading cause of home fires and household fire injuries. Unattended cooking is the leading cause of these fires, most of which start with the ignition of common household items including grease, or paper.

Cooking Safety Basics

  • Never leave food unattended while it is cooking on the stove, and closely monitor food cooking in the oven.
  • Maintain a clean and tidy cooking area that is free of items that catch on fire easily, such as cloth (potholders, towels, etc.), paper (cook books, food packaging, newspapers, etc.), and plastic (food packaging, storage containers, etc.).
  • Roll up your shirtsleeves, or wear short, tight sleeves while cooking, so your clothes don’t accidentally hang onto stove burners and catch fire.
  • Always keep a potholder, oven mitt, and lid on hand.
  • Never plug microwaves into extension cords, and never microwave metal containers or foil.

In the Event of a Stove-Top Fire

  • If the fire is small and contained in a pan, smother the flames by carefully sliding the lid over the pan.
  • Turn off the burner.
  • Don’t remove the lid until it is completely cool.
  • Never pour water on a grease fire.
  • Never discharge a fire extinguisher onto a pan fire since it can splatter burning grease out of the pan and spread the fire.

In the Event of an Oven Fire

  • Turn off the heat.
  • Keep the oven door closed!
  • Notify other occupants and evacuate the building.
  • Call the fire department.

In the Event of a Microwave Fire

  • Keep the microwave door closed.
  • Unplug the microwave to remove the source of heat.
  • Notify other occupants and evacuate the building.
  • Call the fire department.
Electrical distribution equipment poses serious fire safety threats that can even be fatal, especially when equipment is used incorrectly.

Electrical Safety Basics

  • Protect electrical outlets with plastic safety covers if small children are present in your home.
  • Never operate electrical appliances around bathtubs, showers, or puddles of standing water.
  • Use ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) protection when working where water is near electricity, to protect against electric shock. This means you should use GFCIs in your kitchen, laundry room, bathroom, and outdoor locations.
  • Replace or repair frayed, loose, or otherwise damaged cords on all electronics.
  • Unplug the appliance and have it checked by an electrician if any switches feel warm.
  • Take note of any discolored switch plates, because discoloration could indicate that the electrical wiring behind the switch plate is overheating.
  • Remember: symptoms of potential wiring problems include household lights that dim or flicker, a TV picture that shrinks in size, frequent blown fuses, or circuit breakers that trip frequently.
  • Place lamps on level surfaces, away from flammable items, and use light bulbs that match the lamps’ recommended wattages.

Extension Cords and Surge Suppressers

  • Never use an extension cord as a replacement for permanent wiring.
  • Avoid running extension cords across doorways or under carpets.
  • Make sure power strips and surge suppressors are designed to handle the loads you will be have plugged into them.
  • Connect power strips and surge protectors directly into a wall outlet. Do not connect multiple power strips or surge protectors together.
  • Avoid overloading circuits by plugging too many items into the same outlet.

Avoid the use of “cube taps” and other devices that allow the connection of multiple appliances into a single receptacle, and try to only plug one high-wattage item into each outlet.