Laboratory Evacuation and Fires

Laboratories must be evacuated, if safe to do so, in the event of a utility failure; such as loss of power or ventilation, a fire, or major chemical spill. Evacuating the laboratory prevents exposures to hazardous vapors, fumes, or particulates that may be generated during these events and clears the area for necessary emergency response actions.

Immediately reporting a fire, suspected fire, or fire alarm is the most important action necessary to mitigate fire damage, prevent injury or death, warn others, and avoid property damage. If you discover or become aware of a fire in your building or work area:

    1. Leave the laboratory and close the door. If it is safe to do so, consider securing items on the bench top and chemical fume hood, turning off equipment, and closing the sash on the fume hood prior to exiting the laboratory.
    2. Activate the building fire alarm using a manual pull station located near an exit door.
    3. Call 911 and be prepared to give the exact location of the fire, including campus, building address, building name, and cause of the fire if cause is known. The building address and campus name are located on emergency exit route signs and are available here.
    4. If you are confident you can control the fire with a portable fire extinguisher and have been properly trained in the use of portable fire extinguishers, attempt to extinguish the fire if it is safe to do so.
    5. Never allow a fire to come between you and an exit.
    6. Assist individuals with disabilities and those who appear to need direction.
    7. Evacuate the building as quickly as possible, using the primary or alternate exit routes. Exit route signs are posted in conspicuous locations throughout university buildings. Alternate exit routes have been identified in case the primary evacuation route is obstructed by a hazard, is occupied by emergency response personnel, or cannot otherwise be used.
    8. Proceed to the designated assembly area and verbally warn others to evacuate the building as you exit the building. Designated assembly areas should be identified in the Emergency Evacuation Guide. They are also identified on evacuation signs.
    9. If you are unable to exit the building due to fire, mobility challenge, or other hazard, notify a person that is exiting the building and notify police by dialing (703) 993-2810. Shout for assistance, dropping an object to the ground from an exterior window, or hang a highly visible object from a window to get the attention of first responders.
    10. Do not re-enter the building until informed it is safe to do so by University Police or the fire department.

Keep in mind these tips as you follow the steps listed above:

  • Feel door handles with the back of your hand before opening a door(s).
  • If the door handle is hot, don’t open it. Go to a phone or window and call for help.
  • If the handle is not hot, open it cautiously.
  • Check for smoke, heat or fire before going out.
  • If smoke is present, stay as low as possible and crawl to an exit door. Keep one shoulder against the wall as you exit the building to avoid becoming lost.
  • Do not use elevators.
  • Knock on closed doors as you leave and yell “FIRE!” on your way out.

For more information on evacuation procedures and what to do in the event of a fire, consult the Emergency Evacuation Guide and the EHS Fire Emergencies page.


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