Fire Safety Information

Pursuant to New York State Law, New York City Fire Code and Local Law 10, this Fire Safety Plan is made available to all residential students.  Please take the time to read through it carefully.  It contains valuable information concerning the residence halls where you live and spend time visiting friends, as well as what to do in a fire emergency.


Building Information

Building Construction

Residential buildings built before 1968 are generally classified either as "fireproof" or "non-fireproof."  Residential buildings built in or after 1968 are generally classified either as "combustible" or "non-combustible."  The type of building construction generally depends on the size and height of the building.

A "non-combustible" or "fireproof" building is a building whose structural components are constructed of materials that do not burn or are resistant to fire and therefore will not contribute to the spread of the fire.  In such buildings, fires are more likely to be contained in the room, suite or space in which they start and less likely to spread inside the building walls of other rooms, suites and floors.  THIS DOES NOT MEAN THAT THE BUILDING IS IMMUNE TO FIRE.  While the structural components of the building may not catch fire, all of the contents of the building (including furniture, carpeting, wood floors, decorations and personal belongings) may catch on fire and generate flame, heat and large amounts of smoke, which can travel throughout the building, especially if rooms, suites or stairwell doors are left open.

A "combustible" or "non-fireproof" building has structural components that will burn if exposed to fire and can contribute to the spread of the fire.  In such buildings, the fire can spread inside the building walls to other rooms and floors.  The burning contents of the building can also create flames, heat and smoke that can be fatal.


Means of Egress

All residential buildings have at least one means of egress (way of exiting the building), and most have at least two.  There are several different types of egress:

  • Interior Stairs:  All buildings have stairs leading to the street level.  These stairs may be unenclosed or enclosed.  Unenclosed stairwells (stairs that are not separated from the hallways by walls and doors) do not prevent the spread of flame, heat and smoke.  Since flame, heat and smoke generally rise, unenclosed stairwell may not ensure safe egress in the event of a fire on a lower floor.  Enclosed stairs are more likely to permit safe egress from the building, if the doors are kept closed.  It is important to become familiar with the means of egress available in your building.
  • Exterior Stairs:  Some buildings provide access to the living spaces by means of stairs and corridors that are outdoors.  The fact that they are out doors and do not trap heat and smoke enhance their safety in the event of a fire provided that they are not obstructed.
  • Fire Tower Stairs:  These are generally enclosed stairwells in a "tower" separated from the building by air shafts open to the outside.  The open air shafts allow heat and smoke to escape from the building.
  • Fire Escapes:  Many older buildings are equipped with a fire escape on the outside of the building, which is accessed through a window or balcony.  Fire escapes are considered a secondary or alternative means of egress.  They are to be used if the primary means of egress (stairwells) cannot be safely used to exit the building because they are obstructed by flame, heat, or smoke.
  • Exits:  Most buildings have more than one exit.  In addition to the main entrance to the building, there may be separate side exits, rear exits, basement exits, roof exits and exits to the street from stairwells.  Some of these exits may have alarms.  Not all of these exits may lead to the street.  Roof exits may or may not allow access to adjoining buildings.

Fire Sprinkler Systems

A fire sprinkler system is a system of pipes and sprinkler heads that when triggered by the heat of a fire automatically discharges water that extinguishes the fire.  The sprinkler system will continue to discharge water until it is turned off.  When a sprinkler system activates, an alarm is sounded.

Sprinkler systems are very effective at preventing fire from spreading beyond the room in which it starts.  However, the fire may still generate smoke which can travel throughout the building.

Residential buildings are generally not required to have fire sprinkler systems.  Some residential buildings are equipped with sprinkler systems, but only in compactor chutes, specific rooms or boiler rooms.  All apartment buildings constructed or substantially renovated after March 1999 will be required by law to be equipped with fire sprinkler systems throughout the building.

Interior Fire Alarm Systems

Some residential buildings are equipped with interior fire alarm systems that are designed to warn building occupants of a fire in the building.  Interior fire alarm systems generally consist of a panel located in a lobby or basement, with a manual pull station located near the main entrance and by each stairwell door.  Interior fire alarm systems are usually manually activated and do not automatically transmit a signal to the Fire Department, so a telephone call must still be made to 911 or the Fire Department Dispatcher.  Do not assume that the Fire Department has been notified because you hear a fire alarm or smoke detector sounding in the building.  Barnard College Residence Halls signal the Fire Department via Central Station.

Fire Emergency Information

This Fire Safety plan is intended to help you and the occupants of or guests in your room or suite protect yourselves in the event of fire.  Please take the time to read this fire safety plan and discuss it with the members and guests of your room or suite.  Fire prevention, preparedness, and awareness can save your life! This fire safety plan contains:

  • Basic fire prevention and fire preparedness measures that will reduce the risk of fire and maximize your safety in the event of a fire.
  • Basic information about your building, including the type of construction, the different ways of exiting the building, and the types of fire safety systems it may have.
  • Emergency fire safety and evacuation instructions in the event of fire in your building.


Basic Fire Prevention & Preparedness Measures

  • Smoking is prohibited; this applies in all college-owned or operated student residences and all academic and administrative buildings.  Outdoor smoking is not permitted within the confines of the campus.  For those who go outside the perimeter to smoke, we ask that you maintain a minimum distance of 25 feet from any Barnard building and remain mindful of your proximity to building windows and to those passing by.   Students will be held accountable for violation of this policy, and the minimum sanction for this violation includes (but is not limited to) a meeting with your Associate Director (or designee), along with a Letter of Warning or educational sanction.  Cigarettes that are carelessly handled or discarded are the leading cause of fire deaths.  If you are smoking in a location not on campus, be sure to:
    • Never smoke in bed or when you are drowsy.  Be especially careful when smoking on a sofa or other "stuffed" furniture.
    • Extinguish every cigarette in an ashtray that is deep and won't tip over. 
    • Never leave a lit or smoldering cigarette on furniture.
  • Every student's room is equipped with at least one smoke detector.  Check it periodically to make sure it is working by pressing the test button.  Whenever a smoke detector chirps to signal that its battery is low or that it has a malfunction, notify Facilities Services to replace the battery or repair the smoke detector. 
  • Do not leave cooking food unattended whether it is on the stove, in the oven or in a microwave.  Keep stove tops clean and free of flammable items.  Routinely check your kitchen to ensure that your oven is turned off before going to bed.
  • Never overload electrical outlets.  Replace any electrical cord that is cracked or frayed.  Never run extension cords under rugs.  Use only UL-listed power strips.
  • Keep all doorways and windows leading to fire escapes free from any type of obstruction.  Report any obstruction or accumulations of rubbish in the hallways, stairwells, fire escapes or other means of egress to the Facilities Services Department immediately at 212-854-2041.
  • Familiarize yourself with the operations of any window gate in your living area.  If you have one, check to see that the window gate operates smoothly.  Report any window gates that do not open immediately by notifying your RA and submitting a Facilities work order online.
  • Become familiar with the locations of stairwells, fire escapes and ALL other means of egress.  In addition, make sure you know where the fire alarm pull boxes are located.
  • Prepare an emergency escape route to use in the event of a fire in the building.  Include your room or suitemate and choose a meeting place a safe distance from your building where you should all meet in case you get separated during a fire evacuation.  You must evacuate the building when a fire alarm sounds, unless it has been clearly advised to be a testing of the fire alarm system.
  • Fresh cut decorative greens, such as Christmas trees and holiday wreaths are prohibited.  Please refer to page 21 of this Handbook for additional information regarding holiday decorations.
  • NEVER tamper with fire extinguishers, smoke detectors or any other type of life-safety equipment.

Tips for Safe Cooking

  • Never leave cooking food unattended!
  • Turn  handles to the center of the stove to prevent accidental spills
  • Never use water on a grease fire, use a lid to smother a pan fire
  • Never try to remove or carry a pan that is on fire
  • Use fireproof potholders, not a towel
  • Avoid grease buildup and clean up spills, they can easily cause a fire
  • Keep paper products away from the stove
  • Know where the nearest fire extinguisher is located and how to use it

Emergency Fire Safety & Evacuation Instructions

In the event of a fire, follow the directions of Fire Department and Public Safety personnel.  If no first responders are on the scene and there is an emergency situation, you may be required to decide on a course of action to protect yourself and the other members of your room or suite.
This Fire Safety Plan is intended to assist you in selecting the safest course of action in such an emergency.  No Fire Safety Plan can account for all possible factors and changing conditions, so you may have to decide the safest course of action under the circumstances.

General Emergency Fire Safety Instructions

  • Stay calm.  Do not panic.  Notify Public Safety as soon as possible (212-854-6666).  Emergency personnel will be on the scene of a fire within minutes of receiving an alarm.
  • Know the location of the nearest fire alarm pull boxes.
  • Flames, heat and smoke rise, generally a fire on a floor below your room or suite presents a greater threat to your safety than a fire on a floor above you.
  • Do not overestimate your ability to put out a fire.  Most fires cannot be easily or safely extinguished.  Do not attempt to put the fire out once it begins to quickly spread.  If you attempt to put a fire out, make sure you have a clear path of retreat from the room.
  • Exit the building using stairs only and NEVER use the elevator because it could stop between floors or take you to where the fire is.  Close doors as you exit each space, to confine the fire. 
  • Heat, smoke and gases emitted by burning materials can quickly choke you.  If you are in heavy smoke, get down on the floor and crawl.  Take short breaths through your nose.
  • If your clothes catch fire, don't run – STOP, DROP and ROLL.  Stop where you are, drop to the ground, cover your faced with your hands to protect your face and lungs and roll over as many times as necessary to smother the flames. 

Evacuation Instructions for All Building Types

  • Feel your room or suite door and doorknob for heat.  If they are not hot, open the door slightly and check the hallway for smoke, heat or fire.
  • Exit your room, suite and building if you can safely do so, via the exit closest to you. 
  • Close but do NOT lock the door to your room and suite and leave the area.  If the fire is in an adjacent area, close the door to that location as well, if it is safe to do so.
  • If they are conveniently located, grab your keys and shoes (and coat, if applicable) on the way out.
  • As you head for the closest exit, yell for others to evacuate and bang on the doors as you walk past them.  You do not want to remain in the space to wait for others, but do your best to notify others on your way out.
  • NEVER use the elevator to evacuate.  The elevator and elevator shaft may catch on fire, the elevator may stop operating, or the elevator may take you to the location of the fire.
  • If the hallway or stairwell is not safe because of smoke, heat, or fire, and you have access to a fire escape; use it to exit the building.  Proceed cautiously on the fire escape.
  • If you cannot use the stairs or fire escape, call Public Safety and inform them of your location including building, floor, room or suite number and the number of people with you.  Close the door to the room you are in and place a wet towel under the door to prevent smoke from getting into the room.
  • If conditions in the room or suite seem life-threatening, open a window and wave a towel or sheet to attract the attention of emergency personnel.
  • Meet the members of your room or suite at a predetermined location outside the building.  Notify responding firefighters (or appropriate College staff) if anyone is unaccounted for.

Using a Portable Fire Extinguisher

Before you begin to extinguish a smallfire be sure the building's fire alarm has been activated and help is on the way.  The fire should be confined to a small area with no risk of spreading beyond the immediate space.  In addition, it should not pose a danger to your safety. 

Remember the 30 second rule:  If you can't extinguish the fire within 30 seconds or with one fire extinguisher... GET OUT!!

How do you know what kind of extinguisher should be used?  Follow this simple guide:

Type of Extinguisher Use On

ABC [Multi-purpose dry chemical]

Wood, paper, trash, liquid, electrical [class ABC fires]

Water Extinguisher

Wood, paper, trash [Class A fires]

CO2 Extinguisher

Liquid and electrical [Class A and B fires]


(P) PULL THE PIN at the top of the extinguisher.  The pin releases a locking mechanism and will allow you to discharge the extinguisher.
(A) AIM AT THE BASE OF THE FIRE, not the flames.  This is important in order to put out the fire, you must extinguish the fuel.
(S) SQUEEZE THE LEVER SLOWLY.  This will release the extinguishing agent in the extinguisher.  If the handle is released, the discharge will stop.
(S) SWEEP FROM SIDE TO SIDE.  Using a sweeping motion, move the fire extinguisher back and forth until the fire is completely out.  Operate the extinguisher from a safe distance, several feet away, and then move towards the fire once it starts to diminish.  Be sure to read the instructions on your fire extinguisher.  Different fire extinguishers recommend operating them from different distances. 

Prohibited Items

The following items can start fires and are prohibited in the residence halls.

For a full list of prohibited items, please visit here.

  • Candles and Incense
  • Pizza boxes in ovens
  • Cooking mitts left in the oven
  • Halogen lamps and bulbs of ANY kind
  • Overloaded electrical sockets
  • Electrical wires under carpets
  • Extension cords [you may only use UL Approved power strips]
  • Scarves or other clothing items placed over lamps for mood lighting
  • Hover boards / smart boards / electric skateboards / self-balancing scooters
  • Smoking or tossing cigarette butts out windows
  • Open coil appliances
  • Ultraviolet and/or infrared lamps
  • Toasters and toaster ovens
  • Deep fryers
  • Space heaters of ANY kind
  • Hot plate
  • Flammable liquids

If students are found to be in possession of any of these items or other non-approved items (as per the Residence Hall Handbook), the student will be held accountable for the policy violation, and the item(s) will be confiscated and NOT returned to the student.

Barnard College Evacuation Areas

Building Outside Evacuation Point Inside Evacuation Point
Quad (Brooks, Hewitt, Reid, Sulzberger) Main Gate courtyard and corner of 116th & Broadway Barnard Hall 1st floor Lobby, and then to additional locations as directed
Elliott Hall NW corner of 119th & Claremont Diana Center Oval & Student Dining Room Via Altschul Hall LL Entrance
600 W. 116th   Lobby of 616 W. 116th
616 W. 116th   Lobby of 620 W. 116th
620 W. 116th   Lobby of 616 W. 116th
Plimpton Hall NE corner of 120th & Amsterdam  
Cathedral Gardens NW corner of 109th & Manhattan Ave.  
601 W. 110th (College Residence) NW corner of 110th & Broadway  
Barnard Hall Courtyard of the Quad (Arthur Ross Courtyard) Sulzberger Annex & Sulzberger lobby
Diana Center Milbank courtyward Altschul Hall: Lehmann Auditorium & Atrium
Altschul Hall Milbank courtyard and NE corner of Claremont & 120th Diana Center Oval & Student Dining Room
Teaching & Learning Center Construction Site   West side Claremont Ave corner of 116 Street
Milbank Hall NW corner of 120th & Broadway
NE corner of 120th & Claremont 
Diana Center Oval & Student Dining Room


See also PDF version

Last Updated:  February 18, 2015