The Superior Fire Department, UW Superior Residence Life, Facilities Management and the Environmental Health and Safety offices have been working together to improve the safety of our facilities through fire safety inspections. These inspections will occur twice a year in all rooms and offices on campus with the exception of private residences. UW Superior will continue to maintain this campus as a safe place to work, study and relax by responding promptly and effectively in correcting unsafe conditions found during the inspections.
The most common fire safety problems are related to the use of the space. Electrical safety and safe means of exiting our facilities are the leading concerns. To assist you in maintaining a safe work or study environment, please review the following guidelines:
Aisles and Exit Routes
If something impedes your route to safety, you are at risk! Knowing where and how to exit, and having a clear means of escape is essential during any emergency. The guidelines below can be applied to all storage areas, common areas, classrooms, offices and corridors.
- Aisles should be at least 38 inches wide (44-48" is better) and NEVER blocked by equipment or seating.
- Never store anything in a stairway or corridor that might interfere with safely exiting the building.
- Remove any objects that might be a tripping hazard in an aisle or exit route.
- Never block a fire door or use a door stop to hold a fire door in the open position. Fire doors are found in corridors and stairwells. When closed, they will slow the spread of fire and smoke giving the occupants more time to escape safely.
- Make sure the occupancy rating for the room is not exceeded. Additional people means additional furnishings and personal belongings, all of which increase the time needed to escape and decreases the space available for a safe evacuation.
While you are checking your aisles and exit routes, take a moment to locate the nearest fire extinguisher, fire alarm pull station and exit route. Make sure the extinguishers, pull stations and exit signs are clearly visible and free of obstructions--you never know when they will be needed.
Electrical outlets are a premium commodity in facilities that were built before the increased power demands of the modern workplace. Unfortunately, this causes individuals to improvise "quick fixes", such as using extension cords in place of permanent wiring. The unsafe conditions that result, are marked by devastating fires costing many lives and millions of dollars in damages.
Extension cords are designed by the manufacturers for temporary service only. Permanent use is not acceptable. "Temporary" means seasonal use or short periods of hours to weeks. Examples of temporary use include holiday decorations, a piece of equipment set up for a week, or using the appliance for a lecture period. An extension cord is considered "in use" if it is plugged in, even though the equipment is not turned on.
With tight budgets and limitations on electrical services to some locations, addressing the electrical needs of the office or work area can be difficult. The best answers are to locate the appliance near an existing outlet, or submit a work order* to have an electrical outlet installed where it is needed. A single multi-outlet power strip can be used as an alternative to extension cords, even for long time periods. See the guidelines for multi outlet power strips below.
IF extension cords are used, they are allowed only as a temporary condition. Before using an extension cord, please review the following guidelines:
- All extension cords must be UL approved.
- Fabricated (home-made or shop-made) extension cords are NOT acceptable.
- Select extension cords that are rated to handle the power requirements of the equipment. If the wire thickness of the extension cord is smaller than the wire thickness of the equipment cord, the extension cord is probably an inappropriate choice.
- Adapters that go from three-prong to two-prong plugs eliminate the protection that the manufacturer provided by installing electrical grounding in the equipment design. Use of the adapters increases the risk of electrical shock to the user.
- Check all electrical cords and plugs to make sure they are in good condition, without splices, tape, sharply bent or pinched.
- Make sure 3-prong plugs are not altered and that the ground prong is not removed.
- Electrical cords should never run through walls, ceiling, doors, under rugs or across traffic lanes.
- Never use more than one extension cord in any connection.
Multi-Outlet Power Strips
During recent fire safety inspections, multi-outlet power strips are often found on the floor or unattached to work surfaces, which makes this condition the most frequent problem noted in the inspection reports. Many multi-outlet power strips have a fragile internal connection that can be damaged by repeated movement or jarring. Fires have resulted when this connection is damaged, so it is important that the strips be above the floor and mounted to a fixed surface, such as a wall or cabinet.
Multi-outlet power strips are an acceptable substitute for extension cords if they are used sensibly. The following guidelines will help you make the best and safest choice for your use.
Examples of Appropriate Use of Power Strips:
Power Strips May NOT be Used For:
Coffee Pots or mug warmers
Printers & Computer Peripherals
Hot pots, crock pots or hot plates
Refrigerators or Freezers
Microwave, toasters or toaster ovens
ANY other appliance with a high current (amperage) draw
Guidelines for the Appropriate Selection of Power Strips
- The safest type of power strip will have a fuse or reset button to prevent power overloads.
- Multi-outlet assemblies with built in surge protection are the preferred strip for computer usage.
- It is easy to exceed the capacity of the power strip and the circuit, so use some caution when adding multiple appliances to the strip.
- Do not use adapters or extension cords between the strip and the outlet.
- Never plug one power strip into a second power strip or into an extension cord.
- Periodically inspect the condition of the power strip, including the cord and plug, test the reset button, and make sure all plugs are firmly inserted into the outlets. If the power strip feels hot, or if a defect is found, discard the power strip and replace with a new one.
- Extension cords are allowed only for temporary installations (hours - days). Multi-outlet strips are built to be used for extended periods, and can be a safe substitute for an extension cord if installed properly.
Normally, the outlet strips will come with hardware or heavy duty double faced tape for mounting. However, if assistance is needed in mounting the outlet strips, submit a work order* to Facilities Management.
Assistance with fire safety questions is just a phone call away!
Facilities Management ext. 8120
Environmental Health and Safety ext. 8073
*Work orders are submitted to Facilities Management. When submitting work orders, please include the location and the name of an individual to contact for additional information.