Environmental Health and Safety (EHS)

Emergency Action and Fire Prevention Plan

2.0 Emergency Action and Fire Prevention Plan

This section contains general emergency response procedures to be followed in the absence of department- or facility-specific procedures. The supervisor or person responsible for the area where an emergency occurs is responsible for investigating all emergency incidents and reporting them to Environmental Health and Safety.

2.1 Building Evacuations

There are several types of actual and potential emergency situations that might necessitate a building evacuation including fire, explosion, chemical spill, gas leak, terrorist threats, etc. The evacuation alarm is primarily intended for initiating a general evacuation during fire emergencies. During emergencies other than fire, the possibility that occupants could enter a danger area (e.g., chemical spill in exit path, potential explosion area, exposure to gunman, etc.) while exiting the building should be considered before initiating the evacuation alarm. In those instances where a general evacuation is not safe, the evacuation will have to be conducted room by room in buildings that do not have a public address system.

2.1.1 Instructor Responsibilities

At the start of each academic term, instructional staff are required to instruct students and other personnel who are occupying the instructor’s area of responsibility on the proper procedures to follow in case the building must be evacuated. The following information must be included in the instructions:

  1. The signal to evacuate the building in case of emergency is the building fire alarm.
  2. Location of exits nearest to the classroom/lab.  It is the instructor’s responsibility to point out exit paths to students. Exit routes have been posted in all classrooms, class labs, and research labs.
  3. Certain safety precautions that may be necessary before actually departing, such as: making experiments/reactions safe, shutting off gas, etc., if it is safe to do so.
  4. Building elevators are not to be used for evacuation.
  5. Evacuees are not to congregate in or around the building exits or doorways, evacuees must be at least 100 feet away from the building. A designated assembly area shall be determined by the instructor.
  6. It is the responsibility of instructors to notify students in each class of the need to identify themselves (in private, if desired) if they will need assistance during a building evacuation due to disability, and to establish an evacuation plan for those identified. Such evacuation plans may include the buddy system and the use of safe refuge areas—places relatively resistant to smoke and heat within a building (for example a sprinkler protected room or hallway, or a stairway landing) where an occupant could wait until help arrives to assist in an evacuation.
  7. Persons physically unable to evacuate are to be assisted to a designated safe refuge area (usually the landing of an enclosed stairway or a sprinkler protected corridor) if evacuation is necessary from other than a ground level floor. The assistant shall then evacuate and direct fire fighters to the location of the safe refuge area in use.

Personnel may re-enter the building only when the Public Safety Officer at the scene of the emergency situation gives the "All Clear."

2.2 Building Fires

  1. Initiate a building evacuation using the nearest alarm pull station. 
  2. Dial 911 to notify Public Safety and request fire department assistance.
  3. If the fire is small and you have been trained in the use of portable fire extinguishers, you may attempt to extinguish the fire.
  4. Use the nearest safe exit route to exit the building. Close all doors on the way out to prevent the spread of smoke and fire.
  5. After exiting, immediately proceed to a safe location at least 100 feet from the building.
  6. Do not re-enter the building until the all-clear is given by Public Safety or the fire department.

2.3 Medical Emergencies

  1. Evaluate the immediate area for potential safety hazards (fire, toxic or explosive gas vapors, etc.) or situations that may require moving the injured to a safer location. Otherwise move the injured no more than necessary.
  2. Dial 911 to notify Public Safety and request first aid assistance or an ambulance.
  3. Provide emergency first aid as needed if you have been trained to do so.
  4. If the injury involves exposure to a hazardous chemical, provide the Material Safety Data Sheet to the medical emergency responders. If the MSDS cannot be located in time, call the emergency room to offer the information as soon as possible.

2.4 Chemical Spills

Each employee responsible for an activity involving the use of a hazardous substance must prepare a written procedure to be followed in the event of a spill and communicate the procedure to any students, contractors, visiting scholars and scientists, and employees involved in the activity. The written procedure and associated training must include information on when to request outside assistance.

The following procedures are for chemical spills that cannot be handled safely by persons working in the area.

2.4.1 Developing Written Spill Response Procedures

Individuals that supervise the use or storage of hazardous chemicals and materials must develop written procedures for responding to a spill of those chemicals and materials.   For more information on developing spill response procedures, see the American Chemical Society (ACS) “Guide for Chemical Spill Response Planning in Laboratories.” Spill response procedures must prioritize human health and safety and clearly define the circumstances when a spill can be safely managed by on-site personnel and when it is necessary to seek outside assistance. Supervisors must ensure that everyone who uses hazardous chemicals and materials is trained to manage spills and knows how and when to get outside assistance if necessary.

If a spill or release is immediately dangerous to life or health OR on-site personnel are unable to safely manage the spill, seek outside assistance as described below:

2.4.2 Spill of a Hazardous Chemical or Material Inside a Building

  1. Evacuate everyone in the immediate area and close all doors as you leave.  If there is a potential risk to others in the building pull the nearest fire alarm to evacuate the building.
  2. From a safe location, call 911.
    • Give the dispatcher your location: e.g., Michigan Technological University, in Houghton, along with the location on campus including the building name and room number.
    • Describe the situation, any injuries, and if there is a fire or potential for a fire.
  3. Contact your supervisor.  Explain what happened and tell them what is being done in response.
    • It is expected that supervisors will ensure that the department safety officer, department chair, director and/or dean are aware of the incident.
    • If you are unable to contact your supervisor, contact your departmental safety officer or unit leader (chair, director, dean).
  4. From a safe location, meet campus Public Safety and Police Services (PSPS) and other emergency first responders.  Provide them with directions to the location of the spill/release and information about the spilled or released substance including:
    • Name of substance(s), quantity released, and any known hazards;
    • A copy of the Safety Data Sheet(s), if available;
    • Other hazards that may be in the room / area.

 2.4.3  Outdoor Spill of a Hazardous Chemical or Material

  1. Evacuate anyone in the immediate area.
  2. From a safe location, Call 911.
    • Give the dispatcher your location: e.g., Michigan Technological University, in Houghton, along with a description of location on campus.
    • Describe the situation, any injuries, and if there is a fire or potential for a fire.
  3. If the hazard is primarily to the environment and the spill is too large to be cleaned up by on-site personnel OR has the potential to reach the Portage Lake waterway, including through storm drains, request assistance from Environmental Health and Safety. Do not attempt a cleanup once you have determined that outside assistance is needed, or if the spill has entered the soil, groundwater, or surface water.
  4. Contact your supervisor.  Explain what happened and tell them what is being done in response. 
    • It is expected that supervisors will ensure that the department safety officer, department chair, director and/or dean are aware of the incident.
    • If you are unable to contact your supervisor, contact your departmental safety officer or unit leader (chair, director, dean).
  5. Remain a safe distance away from the spill and warn others to stay clear until help arrives.
  6. When campus Public Safety and Police Services or other emergency responders arrive, provide directions to the location of the spill and  information about the spilled/released substance, including:
    • Name of substance(s), quantity released, and any known hazards;
    • A copy of the Safety Data Sheet(s), if available;
    • Any other hazards in the area.

2.4.4  Management of the Scene During a Spill

  1. Public Safety and Police Services (PSPS), local Fire Departments, Michigan Tech staff, and others responding to the spill or release will use established Incident Command/Unified Command structures to manage the active incident.
  2. PSPS will secure the area to ensure safety and prevent unauthorized entry, based on guidance from the “Emergency Response Guidebook,” and / or consultation with knowledgeable persons at the scene.
  3. PSPS will contact Michigan Tech Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) for assistance.  
  4. Based upon recommendations from EHS and other knowledgeable persons at the scene Incident Command will:
    • Prohibit access to the room / building / outdoor area until the spilled / released material is properly cleaned and the area has been determined safe for general occupancy.
    • Declare the room, building, or area safe for re-entry.

2.4.5  Demobilization After the Spill is Cleaned Up and the Area is Declared Safe

  1. EHS will work with PSPS/Incident Commander to ensure any remaining concerns are addressed. 
  2. Upon clearance for re-entry, PSPS will take the lead in reopening the room / building /area.
  3. Incident and Injury Report(s) must be submitted by the supervisor(s), providing details of the incident and documenting any injuries to employees.  A separate report must be submitted for each injured employee.
  4. An after action meeting will be convened by EHS for debriefing.  This meeting shall be scheduled within 1 week of the incident and shall include all involved parties (Examples Include:  EHS, PSPS, the affected department(s), Facilities Management, local Fire, local County Emergency Management, etc.).
  5. Following the debriefing and after action report should be generated outlining steps to be taken to help prevent future incident occurrences, as well as ways to improve the emergency response.


2.5 Building Fire Safety

  • Building occupants shall not obstruct or tamper with any safety features such as exit signs, sprinkler systems, heat and smoke detectors, alarm pulls, horns, and strobes, etc. 
  • Fire doors may not be propped open except with an approved magnetic interlock device.
  • Sprinkler heads and pipes may not be used to support decorations or other items and stored materials must be at least eighteen inches below a sprinkler head.
  • Flammable and combustible storage shall be in conformance with the applicable sections of this document and the National Fire Protection Association and MIOSHA standards.
  • Stairwells shall be kept free of obstructions and shall not be used for storage, recycle containers, vending machines, etc.
  • Hallways may not be used for storage of combustible materials, items that could inadvertently be moved into the traffic path during an emergency, or items that reduce the width of the hallway.
  • Vending machines may not be located where they will reduce the width of a hallway or other building exit path during refilling operations and may not be located in stairways.
  • Items may not be placed in hallways without approval from Facilities Management and Environmental Health and Safety. Cabinets with doors or drawers will not be approved if the open drawer or door reduces the hallway width below the minimum required.
  • A minimum 36-inch clear exit aisle must be maintained from each workstation.
  • Special events must be planned so that displays and refreshment tables do not obstruct exits or exit access routes.
  • Classrooms without fixed seating shall be set up to allow access to the exit door(s) from each row of seats and seating may not exceed 49 in rooms with a single exit.
  • Additional occupants may not be accommodated in aisles, exit paths, or other portions of classrooms and other assembly areas provided with fixed seating.
  • Open flames are permitted only in laboratories and other designated hot work areas unless a hot work permit is obtained (see section 5.3 in this manual).
  • Lighted candles are not permitted except in supervised dining areas, provided they are securely supported on a noncombustible base and the flame is protected.

2.5.1 Holiday Decorations In Buildings Other Than Residence Halls and Apartments

  • Decorated artificial trees may be set up indoors and displayed starting the Monday after Thanksgiving through the end of the calendar year.
  • The use of cut natural trees is not permitted without approval from Environmental Health and Safety.
  • Electric lights and lighted decorations must bear the Underwriters Laboratories seal and must be turned off when the room or space is not occupied.
  • Decorations must be located so that they do not obstruct any exits, hallways, stairs, or firefighting equipment from view or use. No lights or lighted decorations may be placed on or near an exit sign.
  • Electric lights may not be placed on an all-metallic tree or other metallic structure.
  • Combustible decorations may not be placed in stairwells and should be kept to a minimum in corridors.
  • Lighted candles are not permitted except in supervised dining areas, provided they are securely supported on a noncombustible base and the flame is protected.

Chapter 3