FAQs

-Appliances-

Under desk electrical heaters are not recommended but may be used if the following criteria are met:

  • Approved by Underwriter’s Laboratory (UL) (this will appear on the manufacture’s label);
  • Equipped with an intrinsic tip-over protection feature that automatically shuts off the heater if it is accidentally knocked over;
  • All combustible materials (i.e., paper, cloth, cardboard) must be kept at least three feet away from the heater;
  • Plugged directly into a wall outlet; extension cords or power strips may not be used in conjunction with a space heater; and
  • Unplugged when not in use.

Outdoor grills and open flame cooking devices may be used on campus if the following guidelines are followed:

  • Compressed gas (propane) grills are not permitted to be used on campus.
  • Cooking devices must be placed at least 20 feet from all buildings, tents, or other structures.
  • Cannot be used near air intake vents on buildings.
  • Cooking devices may never be left unattended when in use.
  • Every cooking device must have a 5lb ABC fire extinguisher located within 10 feet of the cooking area.
  • Charcoal and wood ashes must be completely cooled before being disposed of, and must be disposed of in an approved container.
  • Charcoal grills may not be stored indoors.
  • Lighter fluid, charcoal or other flammable substances used in the cooking process may not be stored indoors unless stored in an approved fire rated cabinet.

Halogen lamps are not permitted to be used on campus due to their inherent fire hazard.

“UL” is an abbreviation for Underwriters Laboratory; an international corporation that tests appliances and devices to ensure that they meet minimum safety and design standards. There are other corporations that test appliances and devices (e.g., ETL) however their standards are lower than UL’s. George Mason University only allows appliances that are approved by UL and posses the appropriate UL markings.

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-Fire Extinguishers-

One or more fire extinguishers are located on each floor of a building. The specific locations of the fire extinguishers are denoted on Evacuation Plans posted throughout university buildings. Fire extinguishers may be found in wall mounted cabinets (recessed or protruding) or hanging on a wall mounted bracket.

Fire extinguishers are certified annually and maintained by the Fire Safety group within the Environmental Health and Safety Office. If you have specific concerns about a particular fire extinguisher or if you believe that one needs maintenance please call EHS at 703.993.8448 and provide EHS with the location of the extinguisher and your concern.

Fire Extinguisher Training is provided by the Fire Safety group within the Environmental Health and Safety Office. Training is offered routinely and takes about one hour. Training consists of a one-half-hour classroom training and one-half-hour hands-on practice with a fire extinguisher simulator. Please click here for a complete list of training sessions offered by EHS-Fire Safety.

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-Power Strips and Extension Cords-

Extension cords are only permitted to be used for temporary, portable appliances. They may not be utilized as a substitute for permanent wiring. Cords cannot be fastened or hung in a way that can damage the outer jacket or insulation. UL approved fused power strips can be used to extend power to permanent devices or appliances except for those listed in FAQ#5 in this section.

Multi-plug adaptors can be used if they contain the following:

  • A power switch;
  • A fuse;
  • Are UL listed and have the appropriate markings; and
  • Are not used in conjunction with any other multi-plug device(s).

Fused power strips are the only approved device that may be used to increase the number of outlets available from a single outlet. All power strips must be UL listed and in good working order. They must possess a power switch, and be equipped with a fuse.

Some devices draw significant amounts of current, and should be plugged directly into the wall. Contact Environmental Health and Safety Office- Fire Safety if you have specific questions about how to power your devices/appliances. The Electrical Safety Guide can also provide information about the safe powering of devices. The following devices should always be plugged directly into the wall:

  • Portable heaters (i.e., space heaters)
  • Refrigerators
  • Large fans
  • Microwaves
  • Power strips
  • Coffee pots
  • Any device that draws over 10 amperes

Multiple power strips can be used provided that they are all plugged directly into the wall outlet and not plugged into an extension cord or into another power strip.

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-Events-

Tents, depending on their size, must undergo a permitting and inspection process. Specific requirements for tents can be found in the Temporary Structure Permit Guide. All permit applications (if required) must be submitted in a timely manner as described in the Temporary Structure Permit Guide.  All tents must abide by the following minimum requirements:

  • Be placed at least 20 feet from the exterior of surrounding buildings.
  • Not block:
    • Any means of ingress or egress of other structures;
    • Emergency fire lanes; or
    • Any equipment that pertains or aids in the suppression of a fire (e.g., fire hydrant, fire department connection, or post indicator valve).
  • Open flames or cooking devices may not be used under tents. All cooking appliances or open flames to include grills may not be used within 20 feet of a tent.
  • May not be occupied when local winds are forecast or known to be greater than 40 miles per hour.
  • All tents are subject to removal by the Event Coordinator, EHS, Facilities Management, or vendor due to severe weather.
  • Provide adequate clear paths for egress/exiting.
  • Maintain a copy of the Tent Permit (if required) on-site.
  • Have original manufacture’s tags attached indicating that the material of the tent is flame retardant (if tent is 400 square feet or greater).
  • Tents may only be occupied during daylight, unless code compliant electrical lighting is provided.
  • Properly marked and lighted emergency exits (for tents with sidewalls and 900 square feet or greater).
  • Additional regulations may be stipulated in the permit issued by the Commonwealth.

Stages that are owned or rented and erected on campus must have a permit. Specific requirements and the permit application can be found in the Temporary Structure Permit Guide.

All inflatable devices (e.g., bouncy houses, obstacle courses, etc) require a permit, and an inspection by a third party inspector at the cost of the event coordinator. Detailed information about the process for permitting and inspecting inflatable devices can be found in the Temporary Structure Permit Guide.

Events that are expected to have over 1,000 people (including event staff and performers) must have designated Crowd Managers. There must be at least one trained crowd manager for every 250 people at the event. The duties and responsibilities of the crowd manager can be found in the Crowd Manager Guide. For more information about university events please see University Policy 1103: Space Utilization and Scheduling.

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-Building Fire Safety-

All persons who are in a building when a fire alarm sounds must exit the building or go to the nearest Area of Assistance. Fire drills are conducted in accordance with the Virginia Statewide Fire Prevention Code. The frequency of fire drills depends on the occupancy use of the building. See the following table for more information.

Group or OccupancyFrequencyExamples
Assembly Buildings Group AQuarterlyEagle Bank Arena, Center for the Arts, Johnson Center
Education / Business Group BAnnually Innovation Hall, Colgan Hall, Van Metre Hall
Adult and Child Care Group EMonthlyChild Development Center
Residence Halls Group R-2Four AnnuallyNorthern Neck, Potomac Heights, Whitetop Hall

 

Building Inspections: All university owned buildings and some leased spaces (depending upon the lease agreement) are inspected at least annually by a certified fire safety inspector. Any violations that are noted are shared with the appropriate party and are revisited after the building occupant or university has had an opportunity to correct any deficiencies. Additional inspections of university buildings and leased spaces may be inspected by the State Fire Marshalls Office (SFMO) with or without noticed and as deemed necessary by the SFMO.

Fire Suppression and Alarm Systems Inspections: All fire suppression systems (e.g., sprinkler systems, fire extinguishers, and cooking hood suppression systems) and their associated audio and visual alarm systems are inspected routinely. The inspection frequency of these systems is determined by the Virginia Statewide Fire Prevention Code; fire suppression systems are tested quarterly, fire alarm systems are tested annually.

Fire suppression and alarm systems are routinely tested and maintained in order to ensure that they are in working order. For some testing and repairs to be performed the system must be taken out of service. While fire detection and suppression systems are impaired, a fire watch must be posted in order to maintain a safe environment. For further information about fire watch, see the Fire Watch Guide.

Most common fire safety deficiencies are easily remedied. Please consider these issues when working on campus.

  • Obstructed sprinkler heads: items must be kept at least 18 inches away from all sprinkler heads. Storage must be at least 18 inches away from the ceiling. This ensures that the sprinkler head has sufficient clearance to properly spray water throughout the area. This requirement also helps to prevent sprinkler heads from being struck by objects and accidentally activated.
  • Extension cords: Extension cords are only permitted to be used for temporary, portable appliances. They may not be utilized as a substitute for permanent wiring. Cords cannot be fastened or hung in a way that can damage the outer jacket or insulation.
  • Obstructed exits and pathways: doorways and hallways should be kept free of any objects that obstruct all or part of exit pathways and exits.
  • Fire doors propped open: Fire doors must not be tied or propped open. Fire doors are in place to control the spread of fire, and if they are unable to close properly that could lead to excessive fire spread.
  • Unapproved appliances: All appliances that are used on campus must be approved by the Underwriters Laboratory (UL). A “UL” sticker or stamp is placed on any appliance approved by the UL.

If you discover a fire:

  1. Activate the fire alarm by using a manual pull station.
  2. If you are trained to use a portable fire extinguisher and are confident you can extinguish the fire, do so.
  3. Make sure that individuals around you are aware of the evacuation.
  4. Assist persons who are in need of direction or aid.
  5. Leave quickly in an orderly manner using the nearest emergency exit.
  6. Do not use elevators during an emergency evacuation.
  7. If you are unable to exit the building, proceed to the nearest Area of Assistance and emergency response personnel will provide assistance as necessary. Call the University Police by dialing 9-1-1 and provide your name, contact information, and your location.
  8. Close doors as you exit the building.
  9. Once outside the building, go to a Designated Assembly Area and wait for further information.
  10. Follow instructions from emergency response personnel and university officials.
  11. Do not re-enter the building until instructed to do so by University Police, emergency response personnel, or university official.

If you hear a fire alarm:

  1. Remain calm.
  2. Make sure that individuals around you are aware of the evacuation.
  3. Assist persons who are in need of direction or aid.
  4. Leave quickly in an orderly manner using the nearest emergency exit.
  5. Do not use elevators during an emergency evacuation.
  6. If you are unable to exit the building, proceed to the nearest Area of Assistance and emergency response personnel will provide assistance as necessary. Call the University Police by dialing 9-1-1 and provide your name, contact information, and your location.
  7. Close doors as you exit the building.
  8. Once outside the building, go to the Designated Assembly Area and wait for further information.
  9. Follow instructions from emergency response personnel and university officials.
  10. Do not re-enter the building until instructed to do so by University Police, emergency response personnel, or university official.

For further information about emergency evacuations please see the Emergency Evacuation Guide.

If you feel that there is an immediate threat of fire call the University Police at 703.993.2810 and provide specific details about the threat.

If you see something that is not an immediate threat, but is a concern, call or email the Environmental Health and Safety Office at 703.993.8448 or safety@gmu.edu and provide specific information about your concern.

All hot work that is done on campus should be done in a safe manner and in compliance with all OSHA and Virginia Statewide Fire Prevention Code regulations. For further information about hot work, please see the Hot Work Safety Guide or contact EHS.

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Not sure who to contact?

We work closely with many departments on campus, e.g., University Police, Student Health Services, Risk Management, etc., and sometimes it's hard to tell which office you need help from. Often times it's a combo of many! You are more than welcome to contact us if you are unsure, but we've also created a "Who do I contact?" resource if you'd like to take a look.