Frequently Asked Questions

Following are answers to frequently asked questions about Fire Prevention Services and general fire safety. For specific information about fire safety policies in campus residence halls, please visit the Housing and Food Service Web site.

General Information

Who should I call in the event of a fire?

If there is a fire, call 9-1-1. You can call 9-1-1 from a campus phone, cell phone, or off-campus phone to notify the Austin Fire Department of the fire.

What should I do if I notice a fire safety violation on campus?

If you notice a fire safety violation on campus, contact FPS. Please let us know your concerns. Do not call us if your concern involves a life-threatening emergency or fire, however. In the event of an emergency or fire, please call 9-1-1.

Where does FPS keep their fire trucks?

FPS does not have fire trucks. This is because our primary function is to provide fire prevention measures to the university community, through plan review and regular inspections. In the event of a fire, the Austin Fire Department will respond to meet the university’s fire suppression needs.


Who needs to take portable fire extinguisher training?

Anyone who uses a laboratory or works with flammable and/or combustible materials should enroll in a portable fire extinguisher training session. We welcome all interested members of the university community to enroll in a session, and we encourage you to learn more about fire extinguishers on campus. Remember: you should never attempt to fight a fire if you are not trained in portable fire extinguisher use.

Who needs to take building evacuation training?

If you are responsible for the safe building evacuation of others on campus because of your role as an instructor, residential assistant, or building evacuation coordinator, you should enroll in a building evacuation training session. We welcome all interested members of the university community to enroll in a session, and we encourage you to always have an exit strategy for everywhere you study, work, and play.

Special Events

Do I need to notify FPS if I am planning an event on campus?

Yes, you need to notify FPS any time you are planning a public event on campus. Whether you are planning a big or small event, please complete and submit the event planning form (EID required) so we can help make your event safe and successful.

Seasonal Decorations

Are Christmas trees allowed in university buildings?

Natural Christmas trees are not allowed on campus. Artificial trees are permitted, but they must be located in a common area (such as a lobby or reception area), and must not obstruct emergency exit doors, exit aisles, fire hose cabinets, manual fire alarm pull-boxes, or portable fire extinguishers.

Can I use Christmas tree lights in my office?

Yes, you can use Christmas tree lights in your office if you remember to always unplug them when you leave. Please review additional safety tips about winter holiday decorations.

How can I prevent fires when using seasonal decorations?

The best way to prevent fires due to seasonal decorations is to limit the amount of decorations you use. Make sure your decorations do not obstruct doorways, walkways and stairs, and limit the amount of combustible materials you put on the walls and ceilings. Always keep combustible decorations, such as cloth flags, paper streamers, or plastic garlands, away from lights and other ignition sources.


Are candles and incense allowed in university buildings?

No. Burning candles or incense are not permitted in university buildings. Please review safety awareness tips for candles and incense in your home.


Are fireworks permitted on campus?

There is a general prohibition on fireworks on campus, which means you are not allowed to use sparklers, poppers, or similar devices anywhere on campus. Fireworks are only permitted on campus for special events when the location and use has been approved in advance by Fire Prevention Services.

Halogen Lamps

Are halogen lamps allowed in university buildings?

Halogen lamps are not allowed in residence halls, and FPS strongly discourages using them in other campus facilities. If you decide to use a halogen lamp in your office or other non-residential campus facility, follow these guidelines:

  • Make sure the lamp is labeled as “listed” by the Underwriters’ Laboratory (UL) or another recognized testing agency
  • Do not use Halogen bulbs that exceed 120 watts
  • Make sure lamps have a glass or wire guard that protects the bulb
  • Keep lamps away from drapes, curtains, and other combustibles
  • Do not place lamps in a high-traffic area, or anywhere someone may easily trip over them
  • Turn lamps off when you leave the room

Space Heaters

Are portable space heaters allowed on campus?

Portable heaters are not permitted in residence halls. Portable heaters fueled by gasoline, kerosene or propane are not permitted in other campus facilities. Portable electric space heaters are allowed in office areas, subject to the following guidelines:

  • Make sure the heater is labeled as “listed” by the Underwriters’ Laboratory (UL) or another recognized testing agency
  • Only use heaters that have element guards to prevent contact with combustible materials
  • Only use heaters that have automatic safety switches, which automatically turn a unit off when it tips over
  • Keep combustible materials at least three feet away from portable heaters
  • Plug heaters directly into electrical outlets, and do not plug them into extension cords or multi-plug power strips
  • Do not run heater power cords across doorways or aisles, or place them under rugs, carpets, or furniture
  • Turn off the heater and unplug the power cord when the office is unoccupied
  • Never use portable heaters in areas where flammable liquids or flammable gases are stored or used

Extension Cords and Power Strips

Can I use extension cords on campus?

You are not allowed to use extension cords in place of permanent electrical wiring on campus. In other words, you can only use extension cords for temporary purposes, such as accommodating the wiring needs of a meeting or setting up special lighting for an hour-long project. If you need additional outlets installed in your office, classroom, or lab, please contact Facilities Services and place a work order request.

Can I use power strips on campus?

You may use power strips on campus, as long as you plug them directly into the wall and never plug more than one power strip into a single outlet. Because power strips need to be plugged directly into a wall outlet, you should never plug a power strip into another power strip.

Storage near Electrical Units

Can I store things near electrical panels and transformers?

You must maintain a clear space around all electrical panels and transformers, so keep storage at least 36 inches away and do not store anything on top of electrical panels and transformers.

Am I allowed to store things in electrical and mechanical rooms?

No, you are not allowed to store anything in electrical and mechanical rooms.


Is it okay to store things in stairwells?

No, storage is prohibited in stairwells. This means you are not allowed to store anything on the stairs, in the stairwell, or under the stairs. Read about the Our Lady of the Angels School Fire to learn more about why storing items in stairwells is so dangerous.

Am I allowed to hang posters or flyers in stairways?

No, posters and flyers are prohibited in university stairways. You may notice violations of this rule on a regular basis because it is difficult to enforce, but every time you abstain from posting an 8½ × 11 flyer or poster in a stairwell you are helping make the university a safer place. To learn more about why it is important to keep stairwell walls clear of paper and combustible materials, read about the Our Lady of the Angels School Fire.

Is it okay to leave stairwell doors blocked open?

No. Stairwell doors should never be blocked open, unless they are being blocked open for an isolated period of time (for example, while someone is moving in furniture).

Automatic Sprinkler Systems

What are the safety guidelines for automatic sprinkler systems on campus?

If there is an automatic sprinkler system in your classroom, office, or residence hall, make sure all storage is kept at least 18 inches away from the sprinklers and never attach items to the sprinklers or pipes. If you notice a violation, please correct it or notify FPS.