Fire Safety

Fire Prevention Guidelines

The following are important aspects of effective fire prevention in all areas of the campus.

  • Prevent the accumulation of combustible materials (paper, cardboard, plastic) in the work area. Store excess materials in a metal cabinet or storage closet. Recycle or discard unnecessary combustibles to prevent the rapid spread of fire.
  • Store materials on high shelves at least 18 inches below the automatic sprinkler heads. This allows distribution of the sprinkler water to put out a fire.
  • Maintain clear access to the fire extinguishers, fire alarm pull stations, sprinkler system controls and all other emergency equipment. Do not store items and equipment in front of these.
  • Keep corridors, aisles and second exits clear to facilitate evacuation. Do not block evacuation routes with equipment materials, especially items that can burn easily.
  • Keep exit stairway doors closed and do not store materials anywhere in stairways. This prevents smoke from entering the stairway, facilitates evacuation and prevents fires from starting inside the stairway.
  • Avoid overloading electrical outlets and extension cords or multi-outlet strips.
  • Maintain your own fire safety attitude and try to instill it in others. Don't permit others to compromise your safety.
  • Batteries - tape the terminals of 9V and lithium batteries to ensure a fire doesn't start. Even when no longer useful these battery types still maintain a charge and can easily start a fire upon contact with other batteries or metal objects such as aluminum foil, paper clips, coins, and keys


Bolt Locks On Doors

The Building Code prohibits the use of any type of bolt lock on a door that is used to exit.  This is because anyone must be able to open the door with one motion in order to evacuate.

The DOF locksmiths review requests for bolt locks with the EHS Office.  We try to find a solution that meets the code and addresses the occupant's concerns. We willl also ask MIT Police and SEMO to help resolve the issue. No one at MIT has the authority to allow locks to be installed that do not meet the Building Code.


Cambridge Fire Commercial Cooking Regulations

There is a campus wide project to upgrade the commercial kitchens.  Refer to the Cambridge Fire Commercial Cooking Regulations, which are slightly different than NFPA 96.


Fire Blankets

When To Use:

Fire blankets are primarily for smothering clothing and articles on a person that have ignited. While blankets are effective for people on fire,

  • The blanket will trap heat and can extend the burn that a person receives.
  • If you use the blanket while you are standing, then the blanket will act as a chimney funneling smoke towards your nose and mouth. 
  • If you run to get the blanket, that will fan the flames.

The preferred method is an emergency safety shower if located nearby (within 5 feet). If not nearby, then the stop, drop and roll method should be used to extinguish the flames. If a fire blanket is available, it can be used on the victim to continue to smother the flames. Some of newer types of fire blankets use fire resistant fabrics designed to help smother fires on a person whose clothes have ignited. Fire blankets are primarily for smothering clothing fires and articles on a person that have ignited.

NOT Recommended For:

Fire blankets are not designed to put out fires in fume hoods or bench tops. While fire blankets can be successful for small fires, they are not ideal and not recommended for this type of use by fire safety professionals. It is known that fire blankets can be used to smother small, insipient fires under the right circumstances.  Not all fire blankets can be used to extinguish electrical fires. When used to extinguish heavy oil or chemical fires, these materials can sometimes seep through the blanket and reignite, causing the fire to spread. This has actually happened in several instances at MIT when researchers tried to use a fire blanket to put out flammable liquid fires. Fire blankets are not recommended to extinguish a laser cutter fire. If you open a laser cutter and throw a fire blanket inside, the additional oxygen will intensify the fire and the fire blanket will probably start burning.

Check Your Fire Blanket:

Blankets can lose their flame retardant features within 5 years. Fire blankets are only required in the event the laboratory works with flammable materials, but no emergency safety shower or drench hose is available. At present DoF (Department of Facilities) is not maintaining our existing fire blankets, nor replacing them if they are damaged or missing. Since new laboratory renovations or buildings have emergency safety showers, fire blankets are not being installed.


Fire Extinguishers

To Obtain

fire extinguisherContact the Safety Program to review the need for a fire extinguisher in your lab/ shop. In certain situations where the Safety Program determines that a fire extinguisher is needed, the type and size will be specified. Extinguishers are required by the Mass. Fire Prevention regulations to be within 30 feet of a flammable liquids storage area. The recommended location is near the exit door. The type, location and size of extinguishers are based on the specific fire hazard(s) present in the work area.

If the Safety Program recommends that you obtain a fire extinguisher, then send a requisition to the Department of Facilities Fire Protection Team and attach a copy of the email from the Safety Program. Include the cost to purchase the extinguisher and to mount it.

If an extinguisher is missing, call F-IXIT (3-4948) and provide the Building-Room number as well as the number on the blue or red preventive maintenance tag above the mount.

To Recharge

Facilities checks fire extinguishers once a year between January and March. If you find one that was missed, call F-IXIT (3-4948) and provide the Building-Room number as well as the number on the blue or red preventive maintenance tag above the mount.

If An Extinguisher Is Used

If you use an extinguisher to fight a fire, have someone dial 100 and/ or pull the fire alarm to start the evacuation. Portable fire extinguishers are to be used by trained personnel only and are intended for use on incipient fires (e.g. a waste basket fire.)

If you discover that someone extinguished a fire but no one was notified, contact the Safety Program to review the cause of the fire and the recommended guidelines. The Cambridge Fire Department will be notified and may investigate the fire.