Risk Management

Fire Safety

Fire Safety Basics


Fireman Fire Logo

  1. Poor Housekeeping
  2. Fire doors blocked open
  3. Improper use of power strips
  4. Extension cord related issues
  5. Flammable and combustible liquids
  6. Storage of compressed gas cylinders
  7. Blocked fire exits and escape routes
  8. Blocked fire extinguisher access

The Risk Management Officer conducts safety audits of departments at UWRF each year, and may involve the River Falls Fire Dept.  This will present some of the most common fire safety violations that are found.  Use this information to help keep your work areas free from fire safety hazards.

Poor Housekeeping:   The most common problem noted in all fire inspections of campus spaces is “poor housekeeping”.  As it relates to fire and occupational safety, the term housekeeping does not refer to the cleanliness of an area, but the orderliness of contents within an area.

A room with boxes, equipment, or other materials scattered throughout and/or stacked to the ceiling poses a variety of hazards, including:

  • Slip, trip, and fall hazards
  • Blockage of fire sprinkler heads, smoke  detectors or emergency escape routes
  • Ready supply of fuel for a fire
Keep in mind the old maxim, “A place for everything and everything in its place.”   Storage space is limited everywhere on campus -- it is up to each of us to constantly evaluate what we must keep for future use.
  • Keep excessive amounts of loose papers to a minimum.  If documents are needed for the future, file them within a file cabinet or in a binder on a shelf.
  • Reduce, move and organize clutter to keep escape routes free and unobstructed.

Fire Doors Blocked Open: A fire door is a specially constructed door that reduces the speed at which a fire spreads through an area.  Fire doors are usually placed at entrances to stairwells, rooms with special uses (like equipment storage and mechanical rooms), and at intervals within some hallways.

You can identify fire doors by looking at the hinge-edge of the door.  A fire door will have a small metal plate or tag attached with information about the door.  Standard doors do not have tags on the hinge edge.

State and Federal laws require that fire doors be kept closed (except where automatically controlled by the fire detection system).  Blocking a fire door open with a wedge is illegal.

Power Strips: Power strips are devices that contain multiple outlets and usually a circuit breaker switch.  These devices are also known as “surge protectors” and “re-locatable power taps”.  

State and local fire codes permit the use of power strips only with portable electronic equipment such as audio-visual equipment, computers and peripheral equipment.

  • Power strips must be UL approved.
  • Power strips may not be plugged into power strips.
  • Power strips must be protected from physical and environmental damage.
  • Power strips are not approved for use with high-current equipment such as microwaves, toasters, hot plates, coffee makers, etc.

Extension cords: Extension cords are the source of hundreds of fires every year across the nation.  Extension cords are intended and permitted for temporary electrical power access only. Temporary means a short period of a few hours or days.  Extension cords may not be used as permanent wiring and are considered to be “in use” when plugged in, whether or not power is being consumed. 

Use of 2-prong, ungrounded extension cords in UWRF buildings is prohibited.

  • All extension cords must be UL approved.
  • Extension cords must be properly sized to safely handle the power requirements of the connected equipment. 
  • Two or more extension cords may not be plugged together to make a longer cord.
  • Inspect cords and plugs before each use to ensure they are in good condition and without splices, tape, and sharp bends or damaged from pinching.
  • Never use an extension cord with a missing grounding prong.
  • Never run extension cords through walls, ceilings, doors, under rugs or across traffic lanes.
  • Never use more than one extension cord in any connection.

Flammable and Combustible Liquids: Use and storage of flammable and combustible liquids greatly increases the risk of fire.  

  • Flammable and combustible liquid storage is prohibited in basement areas
  • Flammable and combustible liquids must be stored in self-closing, FM approved “safety cans” or within an approved flammable liquid storage cabinet.

The red plastic “gas can” that can be bought for a couple of dollars at local hardware stores is not approved for workplace use.

Compressed Gas Cylinders:  Compressed gas cylinders store a great amount of potential energy.  Cylinders that are not secured from tipping, and/or stored without their protective valve caps securely in place pose an elevated risk to occupants.

  • All cylinders must be restrained from tipping with a chain or strap capable of restraining the cylinder.
  • Compressed flammable gas cylinders may not be stored in basement areas.  LP “barbecue grill” cylinders are not permitted within campus buildings.
  • When not in use, remove regulators and store cylinders with the protective valve cover in place and hand-tighten the cover.

Blocked Exits and Escape Routes: Emergency exit doors and escape routes must be kept free and clear of materials that may impede evacuation.  Emergency exit doors may not be locked or blocked to prevent escape from the inside of a building.

Supplies, equipment, furniture and even small boxes of papers must be kept off of the floor and out of the way in corridors.

Blocked Fire Extinguisher Access:   Keep the area around and under a fire extinguisher clear from storage and debris.  Fire extinguishers are emergency devices that must be accessed and used very quickly with only a moment's notice.


Back to Resources

Contact Us

Risk Management
Jeanna Hayes
Phone: 715-425-3344
25H North Hall

Facebook Icon