Submitted on Wednesday, 9/6/2023, at 10:36 AM

                                                                                                                                                            September 2023

Fire Alarm and Drill Procedures

All faculty, staff and students are required to evacuate a building during a fire alarm. If a fire alarm sounds, doors to rooms should be closed and students should proceed to the closest exit. If smoke hampers a means of egress, persons should seek an alternative route. 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 sounds of the fire alarm, to verify that the system is working as required and to test the evacuation systems for faculty, staff and students.

  • Building occupants should not use elevators to evacuate the building as smoke will rise into the elevator shafts, placing everyone inside at serious risk. The stairs should be used to evacuate safely. If other people who may be unfamiliar with the alarm are observed in the building, they should be advised of the fire alarm and advised to evacuate. 
  • Never force a person to leave or become confrontational. When outside the building, notify an Amherst College Police Department officer. Everyone should proceed to a pre-designated assembly area, at least 50 feet away from the building. Persons should not stand in front of or near the entrances to the building, obstructing firefighters’ access to the building. Click the link Accountability Areas to access the list of accountability areas for all residential buildings.
  • Faculty and staff are required to have an accountability system in place, as they are responsible for their respective students in class or their staff at work. Depending on the number of students or staff, a checklist of names is strongly recommended.
  • Persons must not reenter the building until the fire alarm has been silenced and the Amherst College Police Department or the Amherst Fire Department has indicated that it is safe to reoccupy.


Candles and Open Flame / Combustion Devices

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 either the Environmental Health and Safety or the Amherst College Police Department.

  • If lit or previously-burned candles or incense are found or reported, they will be confiscated.
  • Smoking is not permitted in any Amherst College building or academic, residential or support area, including outside assemblies and gatherings. Smoking must be done outside, at least 25 feet away from the main windows and doorways of any building.


For fire, health and safety reasons, the following appliances are not permitted in student rooms:

  • Air conditioners
  • Coffeemakers and coffee pots without automatic shutoff
  • Crock-Pots/slow cookers
  • Doughnut makers
  • Electric frying pans
  • Gas appliances
  • Grills
  • Halogen lamps
  • Hamburger makers
  • 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
  • Sunlamps
  • Toaster ovens
  • Waffle irons
  • Woks

Ceilings and Walls

In accordance with the requirements of the Massachusetts Fire Prevention Regulations, ceilings and walls in student rooms and common areas in any building are not permitted to have greater than 20 percent of any surface covered with combustible material such as paper, posters or other wall hangings. Ceiling and wall hangings must be fire retardant. Additionally, the following expectations apply:

  • Items cannot block or partially obstruct a smoke detector
  • Items cannot block or partially obstruct a fire alarm horn or strobe
  • Items cannot interfere with the operation of a sprinkler system
  • Items cannot be hung from sprinkler heads or piping
  • Curtains and other draperies cannot be used in rooms as dividers
  • Students are responsible for the cost of repairing any damage caused by their failure to abide by these policies

Fire Reporting Procedure

The following procedure should be followed if a fire is discovered:

  • Close the door to contain the fire
  • Alert people in the area
  • Pull the fire alarm (located by the exit doors) and call the Amherst College Police Department at (413) 542-2111
  • Extinguish the fire if trained and the fire is small and you feel comfortable, or Evacuate to your designated accountability area

Fire Extinguishers

Fire extinguishers are strategically located on campus, based on the types of hazard present. Typically, a Type A Pressurized Water (PW) extinguisher is placed in a corridor of a residence hall for use by emergency response personnel, such as an Amherst College Police Department officer, firefighter or other trained person, such as a custodian, Resident Counselor, etc.

  • Only persons who have been trained to use a fire extinguisher shall do so, and only if the fire is small in size and the users are not placing themselves or anyone else at risk.
  • Persons who are not trained shall simply close the door to the room where the fire is located (if possible) and evacuate the building, as indicated above.
  •  Dry Chemical (ABC) fire extinguishers are placed in areas where cooking is done or where flammable liquids are present, such as in a laboratory or vehicle.
    • Special care should be taken when using this type of fire extinguisher for a fire involving flammable gases and liquids, as there is a possibility of personal injury. Do not use this type of extinguisher unless you have been trained and you are sure it is safe to do so. 
    • Fire extinguishers have a specific purpose on campus and have been successfully used to extinguish small fires before the arrival of the fire department. Fire extinguishers must be free of obstruction and shall not be tampered with, as they are often used by Amherst College Police Department, trained faculty, staff and students, as well as the Amherst Fire Department before attack lines can be pulled off the fire engine.
  • Fire extinguisher training is available, upon request, through the Office of Environmental Health and Safety. Contact your Resident Counselor to request a training session.


Amherst College inspects fireplaces in common areas. Only fireplaces found to be in proper working order can be used.

  • Fireplaces located within individual student rooms are not to be used.
  • Resident Counselors can contact Environmental Health and Safety for training before the fireplace is used.
  • In order to use a fireplace on campus, in accordance with the requirements of the Amherst Fire Department, persons must first be trained. Fireplaces must have screens, tools, metal ash buckets and fire extinguishers in place before being used. Affixed to the mantel or wall by each operational fireplace is a sign that indicates, as a reminder, how the fireplace is to be used. The sign is not a substitute for training. It also identifies the type and age of the firewood and the proper equipment to be kept on hand.
  • Fireplaces are not to be used for cooking


Student rooms are furnished with fire-code-compliant furniture and mattresses. An inventory of this furniture and its physical condition will be made at the beginning and end of each school year. Personal furnishings brought in by students are often not fire-code-compliant and will not be permitted if they fail to meet minimum requirements, such as CAL 117, CAL 133 or NFPA 701. A tag with appropriate code-required information will appear on the article of furniture.

  • If, in the judgment of the Environmental Health and Safety, there is a potential fire or related health or safety hazard, the item shall be removed at the student’s expense.
  • Any items remaining after that date will be disposed of by the College at the students’ expense.
  • Furniture not authorized for the room in question is considered stolen property.
  • Room searches for stolen or missing furniture may be conducted periodically.
  • Waterbeds and similar furniture are not permitted, because of the strain imposed on the building structure and the danger of water damage.
  • All personally owned furniture and furnishings must be removed from student residences at the time the residences are vacated. The College’s lounge furniture cannot be used to enhance student rooms or off-campus apartments.


Smoking is not permitted in, or within 25 feet of, any building at Amherst College. 

  • The 25-feet rule is in place to protect building entrants from having to walk through second-hand smoke and to prevent the introduction of smoke into the air intakes of the campus buildings. Smoking is not permitted in student rooms or inside any portion of a building.
  • Faculty, staff and students who are being adversely affected by smoking can contact the Office of Environmental Health and Safety or Office of Human Resources.


  •  Electrical cords must not pass through walls, through floors or above suspended ceilings.
  • Electrical cords must not run beneath carpets or across corridors or fire escapes. This type of placement could cause a fire or personal injury accident. If temporary wiring is required, the cord must be run along the wall, not across an aisle or above ceiling tiles. If elevated, cords must be held up with a nonconductive 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 Electric Code, there must be at least 3 square feet of space around any and all electrical panels, boxes, disconnects, fuses and other associated equipment.
  • Faculty, staff and students who have questions about electrical closets, disconnects, panels, rooms or service should contact the Amherst College Facilities Service Center at (413) 542–2254.