Learn about fire safety at Vanderbilt

September is recognized as National Preparedness Month, which serves as a reminder that we all must take action to prepare—now and throughout the year—for the types of emergencies that could affect us where we work and live. Watch for a series of stories about emergency preparedness in MyVU during the month of September.

September is National Preparedness Month, which is a great time to review your fire safety protocols to make sure you are ready in the event of a fire affecting your area. See below for information on prevention, preparedness and response to make Vanderbilt a fire-safe campus.

Prevention is KEY to a fire-safe Vanderbilt

Fire prevention is everyone’s responsibility. The university has established fire-prevention policies and regulations but cannot anticipate every possible scenario that might result in fire. Individual awareness and common sense are required to mitigate the potential for fire. Familiarize yourself with fire detection/suppression systems in your building, including fire extinguisher locations. Be aware of all exits in your building and know whom to contact in the event of an emergency.

Electrical safety

You can prevent electrical fires by following these simple guidelines:

  • Do not use damaged equipment or frayed electrical cords.
  • Report poorly maintained or damaged electrical equipment.
  • Arrange electrical cords so that they are not a trip hazard or prone to damage by furniture or doors.
  • Minimize the use of extension cords/power strips. Avoid running extension cords under carpets or across doorways.
  • Avoid overloading outlets and always follow manufacturer’s instructions.

Responding to a fire: What should you do?

Vanderbilt University’s Office of Emergency Preparedness, Fire and Life Safety has developed emergency guides to provide instructions for some of the emergencies that may occur on the Vanderbilt campus. The information provided here will help you to respond properly in the event of an actual fire.

Please read below for the fire safety portion of the emergency guides. For more information or to download the guidebook, visit

If you smell smoke, see a fire, or hear a fire alarm:

  • IMMEDIATELY EVACUATE THE BUILDING. Always use the stairs. Never use elevators during a fire. Help individuals requiring assistance in evacuating.
  • If the fire alarm has not been activated, pull the manual fire alarm by the nearest exit.

Before opening doors, check for heat:


  • Open the door carefully and proceed to the nearest exit.
  • Close doors behind you and leave lights on.
  • If there is light smoke, stay low and cover your face with a cloth (shirt, blouse, etc.) to filter out particulates.


  • Seek another exit.
  • If you are on a ground floor, try to exit through a window.

If you are trapped in a room on an upper floor:

  • Dial 911 to report your building, floor, room number, and the number of people with you.
  • Prevent smoke from entering the room. If available, place wet towels or cloth material at the bottom of the door and cover any vents.
  • If the room begins to fill with smoke, you can open the window slightly. Never break the window because this might cause a chimney effect and help spread the fire.

Assist the physically impaired as needed:

  • Offer to guide the visually impaired.
  • Instruct the hearing impaired to evacuate with you. If you encounter a wheelchair-bound person, assist them to a refuge point and instruct them to wait for fire department assistance.
  • Call 911 to report your building, floor and the location of the person needing evacuation.
  • The first choice for a refuge point would be a widened stairway landing that will accommodate a wheelchair without impeding patrons as they exit.
  • If no stairway refuge exists, then have them remain in a room with a window.
  • Make every attempt to ensure they have a phone or cell phone available.
  • Make note of the individual’s exact location and continue to evacuate the building.
  • After you safely evacuate from the building, report to your designated rally point.

Report to your supervisor or designated point of contact and report:

  • The location of anyone who could not be evacuated.
  • The location and phone number of any mobility impaired person you assisted.
  • Any problems you witnessed while exiting the building, such as hallways/stairs filling with smoke or blocked by fire.
  • DO NOT go back into the building until the fire department or the Vanderbilt University Police Department (VUPD) indicates that it is safe to do so.

To call VUPD in an emergency:

  • Dial 911 from any campus phone.
  • Dial 615-421-1911 from any other phone.
  • Select the “GET HELP” button on the SafeVU app available free on Apple and Android phones.

Fire extinguisher use

DO NOT attempt to put out a fire if it is larger than a small trash bin. Fire can double in size in mere seconds, and normal fire extinguishers are designed to put out small fires, about the size of a small trash bin. If you are not able to extinguish a fire with one extinguisher, evacuate the building immediately.

To use a fire extinguisher, remember the acronym PASS:

  • PULL the pin in the nozzle of the extinguisher
  • AIM the nozzle of the extinguisher at the base of the fire
  • SQUEEZE the handles together
  • SWEEP from side to side covering the fire

Vanderbilt’s Office of Emergency Preparedness has recently acquired new fire extinguisher training equipment. BullsEye is a laser-driven fire simulator where participants can practice using a specialized fire extinguisher on a simulated fire. This training leaves no mess and is free to Vanderbilt faculty and staff.

To request a fire extinguisher training session for your staff, please contact Jessamyn Davis.