Student Fire Safety Guidelines

June 2017



a. Campus Police
Facilities Building
542-2111 (EMERGENCY)
542-2291 (non-emergency)
b. Environmental Health and Safety
Facilities Building
c. Facilities Service Desk
Facilities Building


Amherst College is committed to providing a healthy and safe educational and
working environment for our students, faculty, and staff. In order to meet this goal the College has developed a number of policies and procedures to protect the campus community. The success of the program depends on each one of us.

The Following are the Fire Safety Policies and Standard Operating Guidelines
for Amherst College. These rules and regulations comply with those of local, state, and federal regulatory agencies, including the State Building Code, the Massachusetts Fire Prevention Regulations, and the recognized fire safety standards such as the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA).


Fire Alarm Procedures

1. All faculty, staff, and students are required to evacuate the building during a fire alarm.

2. If a fire alarm sounds, close the door to your room. Proceed to the closest exit. If smoke hampers your means of egress, find an alternative route.

3. Do not use the elevator to evacuate the building, as smoke will rise into the elevator shaft, placing everyone inside at serious risk. Use the stairs in order to evacuate safely.

4. If you observe other people in the building who may be unfamiliar with the alarm, advise them of the fire alarm and suggest that they evacuate. DO NOT force them to leave or become confrontational.

5. Proceed to a pre-designated assembly area, away from the building. Do not stand in front of or near the entrances to the building since fire department access to the building should not be obstructed.

6. Do not re-enter the building until the fire alarm has been silenced and the Amherst College Campus Police or the Amherst Fire Department has indicated that it is safe to re-occupy.

Fire Reporting Procedures

The following procedures should be followed if you discover a FIRE:

Pull Station

1. Close the door to the room involved. This will contain the fire and make it easier to extinguish.

2. Activate the closest fire alarm. Pull stations are normally located next to the exit or stairwell door.

3. Report the fire to the Amherst College Police Department (ext. 2111). Call from a safe location, away from the fire. Never assume that someone else has called.

4. Evacuate the building or extinguish the fire using the appropriate fire extinguisher, if possible. Do not place yourself at risk. Use the fire extinguisher only if you have been properly trained and the fire is small.

Fire Evacuation Procedures

1. When evacuating the building, use the most direct means of egress possible.

2. Before you open a door, feel the door with the back of your hand. If the door is hot, or you can see fire or smoke in the corridor, do not pass through. Stay in the room. Pack towels (preferably wet) under the door to prevent smoke entry. Telephone Amherst College Police Department (ext. 2111) and report your location. If a telephone is not available, go to the window and wave a brightly colored cloth to draw attention to you. Open the window; do not break the window. If you break the window, smoke may enter from the floor below.

3. If the door is cool, open it slowly. If there is no smoke, proceed to the nearest exit. If the smoke is light, crawl low to the closest exit. If you encounter smoke along the way, choose an alternative escape route. Make sure the doors close behind you to prevent the spread of smoke.

4. Once outside, proceed to the designated area, away from the building and doors. Make sure that everyone is accounted for. If occupants were unable to get out of the building, or if they cannot be found, report this to the Amherst College Police Officer, who will arrive on the scene as soon as possible.

Emergency Evacuation Procedures for Persons with Disabilities

1. If the occupant, resident, or visitor is located on the ground floor of the building, exit through the closest appropriate means of egress.

2. If the occupant, resident, or visitor is located above or below the ground floor, do not use the elevator. Stay in your office or room, or see specific examples below.

3. Call the Amherst College Police Department (ext. 2111) and give the dispatcher your name, exact location, room number, and telephone number. Remain by the phone until contacted by the Amherst College Police Department. Firefighters will assist persons who are unable to evacuate.

4. Persons with hearing impairments can be assisted out of the building, provided that they are made aware of the activation of the fire alarm.

5. Persons with visual impairments can be safely helped out of the building, provided that a person is there to assist them, and that most of the other building occupants have already left the building. The evacuation of persons with disabilities at the same time as everyone else might increase the risk of accident or otherwise endanger all persons trying to vacate the building.

6. Persons with mobility impairments should most often remain in their rooms until assisted by the Fire Department. Untrained occupants should not attempt to carry people from the building. This could cause stairway restriction for other evacuees and may also result in serious injury.


Failure to Evacuate

Except for emergency response agencies (i.e. Amherst Fire Department and the Amherst College Police Department), all occupants in the building will evacuate when a fire alarm has been activated. Individuals or groups failing to evacuate will be subject to judicial action, fines, or expulsion from college housing and / or criminal prosecution.
  • Fines for failing to evacuate range from $100 to $500.
The Amherst College Police Department will perform floor and building sweeps for the health and safety of residents. Residents found in their rooms during a fire or fire alarm will be reported to the Dean of Students Office for disciplinary action. Amherst College has adopted this approach to help prevent "false alarm" apathy.

Fire Department Access

Persons who intentionally block or otherwise hamper the duties of the Amherst Fire Department or the Amherst College Police Department during a fire or medical emergency will be subject to judicial action, fines, or expulsion from college housing and / or criminal prosecution.
  • Fines for obstructing emergency response agencies range from $100 to $500.

Fire Detection and Suppression Equipment Tampering

Unauthorized modifications of or tampering with the fire detection and / or suppression system (including fire extinguishers) in any building or room will result in judicial action, fines, or expulsion from college housing and/or criminal prosecution.
  • The minimum fine for tampering with fire detection and suppression equipment is $100.

False Fire Alarms

Any person who, without proper justification, turns in a false fire alarm by activating a fire alarm pull station or calling in a report of fire may be punished with judicial action, fines, or expulsion for college housing, and/or criminal prosecution.
  • The range of fines for false alarms is $100 to $500.

Malicious Burning of Building Component(s) or a Building

Any person who knowingly sets fire to components of a building (i.e. doors, bulletin boards, and furniture) and/or the building itself will face judicial action, fines, or expulsion for college housing, and/or criminal prosecution.
  • Fines for malicious burning shall range from $100 to $500.

Smoke Bombs and Bomb Threats

Any person who possesses and/or activates a smoke bomb in a building without the permission of the Amherst College Police Department, or any person who initiates a bomb threat, will be subject to judicial action, fines, or expulsion from college housing and /or criminal prosecution.
  • Fines for possessing or activating a smoke bomb range from $100 to $500. Calling in a bomb threat or planting a bomb or other incendiary device will result in criminal prosecution.

Fire Hydrants and Fire Lanes

No vehicle except for emergency response apparatus or cars shall park in designated fire lanes or in front of a fire hydrant. Amherst College shall not be responsible for any damage to a motor vehicle that obstructs the response of the Amherst Fire Department or other emergency response agency.

Fire Hazards

Motorcycles, automobiles, mopeds, gasoline, propane, flammable liquids and other similar items are not allowed in buildings other than those facilities specifically designed for that intended purpose and shall be removed at the owner's expense.

Fire Hazards such as those associated with poor housekeeping, electrical hazards, and improper use of cooking equipment are addressed in a later section.


Any person possessing and/or discharging fireworks on campus will face judicial action, fines, or expulsion for college housing, and/or criminal prosecution.
  • The minimum fine for possessing or discharging fireworks on campus is $100.

Fire Drills

Fire Drills at Amherst College will be conducted at least twice during the academic year. Fire Drills are performed to familiarize occupants in the building with the sound of the fire alarm, to verify that the system is working as required, and to test the evacuation systems for faculty, staff, and students.


Most residence hall fires start in a student room. The cause of the fire could be careless disposal of smoking material, cooking equipment, candles, or improper lights and wiring. Residents often believe that a fire will not take place in their building because the dormitory is constructed of brick and/or concrete. While it is true that the exterior is fire resistant, the contents inside are not. Wastepaper baskets, sheets, futons, wall hangings, and furniture are fuel sources for a potential fire; if ignited, each will allow smoke and flame to spread throughout the room, floor, or building. Ignition sources include but are not limited to: candles, space heaters, cooking appliances, etcetera. 

For health and safety reasons Amherst College will inspect each means of egress, electrical room, recycling closet, student storage area, and individual room at least twice annually to help maintain a healthy and safe living environment for all building residents. In addition, if the College receives a complaint about an area or room within a residence hall relative to health and safety, the College can and will inspect and rectify the hazardous condition at the resident's expense. The Amherst College Police Department, Environmental Health and Safety, and/or the Dean of Students Office can inspect, correct, and if necessary, confiscate any item found within an area or room that poses a risk to the occupants of the area, room, or building.

Amherst College will inspect the following:

§ Improper Appliances
  • Air Conditioners
  • Coffee makers and pots without automatic shutoff
  • Crock Pots
  • Doughnut makers
  • Electric frying pans
  • Gas appliances
  • Grills
  • Halogen lamps
  • Hotplates
  • Immersion heaters
  • Microwave ovens
  • Popcorn poppers with oil
  • Power strips without built-in breakers or fuses
  • Refrigerators larger than 4.5 cubic feet
  • Space heaters
  • Sun lamps
  • Toaster ovens
  • Waffle irons
  • Woks
§ Improper Wiring
  • Overloaded extension cords
  • Overloaded electrical outlets
  • Outdoor lights
  • Decorative lights improperly installed

Appliances found in violation of these regulations will be confiscated and returned only at the end of the academic year. A $25 fee for handling and storage will be charged when the device is returned. The College will disposed of all unclaimed articles after a one-year holding period.

Bunk Beds and Lofts

Before constructing a bunk bed or loft, students must submit a hard copy of the plan to the Amherst College Police Department Chief (College Fire Marshal) for approval. Construction shall not take place until the plans have been approved and returned to the requester by the Fire Marshal.

After the bunk bed or loft has been completed, the Fire Marshall must be notified for the purpose of inspection. Provided the bunk or loft has been constructed according to plan, the Fire Marshal will grant the approval.

The occupant or Physical Plant personnel (at the owner's expense) will disassemble all bunks and lofts that were not approved by the Campus Fire Marshal. If an unapproved, constructed loft is found during an inspection or complaint, the Fire Marshal can order removal of the furniture and prohibit the resident from being able to construct it in the future.

Bunks and lofts must:

  • be in compliance with all state building and fire prevention regulations
  • be free standing and not attached to the floor, wall, or ceiling
  • have a sleeping surface at least 4 feet beneath the ceiling
  • not have more than two sides enclosed by wall or partition
  • be built using construction grade lumber
  • not exceed 30% of floor square footage
  • not block or obstruct windows, doors, smoke detectors, network outlets, or emergency exits
  • not cause damage to the room or its contents (the owner will be financially responsible for any damage to College property)
  • be removed by the last day of spring-semester classes. If not removed, the College will disassemble and remove the loft at the owner's expense; minimum charge for removal by Physical Plant is $50.

Other Construction

Students may not construct partitions, subdivide their rooms, construct additions that increase fire load, install or modify electrical wiring or plumbing, or alter "means of egress" (i.e. emergency exits). Each of these modifications increases the risk of fire or personal injury accidents.


The Amherst College Physical Plant inspects fireplaces in common areas. Only those fireplaces found to be in proper working order can be used. Fireplaces located within individual student rooms shall not be used. Fireplaces must have screens in place when they are being used. Affixed to the mantle or wall by each operational fireplace is a sign that indicates how the fireplace is to be used, the type and age of the firewood, the proper equipment to be kept on hand, and how the fire is to be extinguished.
  • A minimum fine of $100 may be imposed for improperly using a fireplace.

Candles, Open Flame Devices, and Smoking

Open flame devices (except for cigarette lighters and matches) are prohibited in residence halls. Candles for religious services and birthday parties must be approved in advance by the Amherst College Fire Marshal. Candles, incense, and similar items may not be burned or lit in any residence hall. If lit or previously burned candles or incense are found or reported they will be confiscated.
  • The minimum fine for lit candles or incense is $25. Any  candle, incense or open-flame device that is actually found burning will result in a fine of $100.
Smoking is prohibited in all academic buildings and residence halls. Smoking is not permitted in buildings or within 25 feet of a building entrance or air intake.

Do not dump smoking materials into plastic waste containers or dumpsters without properly extinguishing them with water.

Holiday Decorations

In accordance with the Massachusetts Fire Prevention Regulations, the following decorative items shall not be permitted in Amherst College buildings and residence halls:
  • Candles (except those approved in advance by the Amherst College Fire Marshal)
  • Christmas or other sawn trees (except UL or FM-approved artificial Christmas or decorative trees)
  • Christmas or other decorative wreaths (except UL or FM-approved artificial Christmas or decorative wreath)
  • Corn stalks or shucks
  • Cotton or confetti
  • Dry moss or leaves
  • Hay or straw
  • Paper streamers
  • Sawdust or wood shavings
  • Tree branches and leaves
Only UL or FM-approved lighting for indoor use can be used in academic and residential buildings. If used, the lights cannot be run over ceiling tiles or grids, or through walls or doorways. The lights must be hung below the ceiling using non-conductive material (i.e. string or tape). The lights cannot restrict means of egress and can be removed by the College Fire Marshal or Environmental Health and Safety Manager if a hazardous condition exits. Not more than three sets of lights can be attached to a single extension cord. Lights must be turned off when the area is unattended.

Electrical and Extension Cords

Electrical Cords (primary and extension) must not pass through walls, floors, or above suspended ceilings.

Electrical Cords (primary and extension) cannot be beneath carpets or across corridors or fire escapes. This type of placement could cause a fire or be responsible for a personal injury accident. If temporary wiring is required, the cord must be run along the wall, not across an aisle or overhead. It must be held up with a non-conductive material such as string or tape, and may not run above a concealed space such as a drop ceiling.

Electrical and mechanical closets and rooms are hazardous locations. They are not to be used for general storage and they must be kept clean at all times to reduce the risk of fire.

Electrical panels shall be properly maintained. In accordance with the Massachusetts Electrical Code, there must be at least three square feet of space around any and all electrical panels, boxes, disconnects, fuses, and other associated equipment.

Students having questions about electrical closets, disconnects, panels, rooms, or service should contact the Amherst College Facilities Service Desk (ext. 2254). For health and safety reasons, the Facilities Electric Shop shall have full and final control over their respective spaces.

Fire Doors, Escapes, and Exits

For health and safety reasons, all means of egress and their components must be properly maintained at all times in accordance with the requirements of the State Building and Fire Prevention Regulations. A means of egress shall include but is not limited to corridors, doorways, fire escapes, and stairwells. They incorporate an "exit access" (corridors and stairs that lead to an exit), an "exit" (the door itself), and the "exit discharge" (the exterior side of the door, which could include a fire escape, another building, or sidewalk).

Each corridor and stairwell in our residence halls have the following equipment: emergency lighting, exit signs, fire extinguishers, fire alarms, and smoke detectors.

  • Tampering with or otherwise damaging the above referenced equipment can range from $100 to $500.
The corridors in the residence halls are required to be free of hazard and obstructions. Corridors, fire escapes, hallways, and stairwells cannot be used for the placement or storage of combustible material (i.e. boxes, cardboard and/or paper), bicycles or furniture, waste receptacles, or any other item or equipment that would hinder a safe means of egress or firefighting operations.

Corridors, fire escapes, hallways, and stairwells cannot be used as runways for extension cords, telephone wires, or television cables that could create a personal injury hazard.

- Fire escapes cannot be used for storage of grills, regardless of size or fuel.

Fire doors in corridors and stairwells cannot be chocked open (except smoke-activated fire doors that close when the fire alarm is activated).

  • Fine for obstructing a means of egress is $25.


The Amherst Fire Department can only issue one permit in any year for a ceremonial bonfire. Bonfires shall mark the observance of a significant municipal, state, or national event and such ceremonial bonfire shall be under the continuous supervision of the fire department. A permit for such ceremonial bonfires shall be issued only to a municipal department or a civic, fraternal, or veterans organization within the town of Amherst.