Fire Safety

Fire prevention and preparedness are important ways we keep BU’s campus and your residences safe. Fires on campus are rare—because our strict precautions and policies prevent them from occurring. Here you’ll find what to do if a fire breaks out, and how you can prevent fires on and off campus.

If Fire Occurs

While we hope that you’ll never have to experience a fire in your residence or building, it’s vital that you know what to do if one occurs. It could save your life and the lives of others.

  • Activate the building alarm system, evacuate the building, and call 911. Do not use elevators when evacuating the building.
  • Feel the doorknob, door frame, and the top of the door. If they are hot, don’t open the door—use an alternate escape route. If they are normal temperature, open the door cautiously, check for smoke or flames before exiting, and close the door securely behind you.
  • Knock on apartment or room doors as you leave and yell, “FIRE!”
  • If thick smoke is present, cover your mouth and crawl low to the floor.
  • If you’re trapped, yell and hang a sheet from the window.
  • Make sure that everyone has gotten out safely.
  • If you suspect someone is still inside, do not go back in search of the individual. Instead, alert the responding fire officials.
  • After you are out of danger and have called 911, call BUPD at 617-353-2121.

For more information on what you should do if a fire breaks out, visit BU’s Fire Safety website or Fire Safety for College Students.

General Fire Prevention

Many of the things you can do to prevent fires are part of good common sense. Paying attention to your appliances and cords is easy—and can help you stay safe.

  • Approved appliances (irons, hair dryers, hot-air popcorn makers) should never be left unattended.
  • Don’t overload electrical outlets.
  • Observe “No Smoking” regulations.
  • Ensure that all electrical cords are in good repair.
  • Don’t run electrical cords across doorways or under carpets or mats.
  • Fire doors should not be propped open.
  • Don’t block windows, emergency exits, doors, or hallways.
  • Roofs and fire escapes should be used only for intended purposes.
  • Do not tamper with smoke detectors.
  • Have an evacuation plan and a secondary route out in case of a fire or other emergency.
  • When a fire alarm sounds, evacuate the building immediately.

Cooking Safety

  • Never leave cooking food unattended.
  • Keep cooking areas clean and clear of combustibles.
  • If there is an oven fire, turn off the heat and keep the oven door closed.
  • In the event of a microwave fire, keep the microwave door closed.
  • For a grease fire, cover the pan. Never pour water on a grease fire.
  • If you have an electrical fire (such as a toaster, coffee pot, etc.), unplug the appliance if you safely can and use a fire extinguisher to put out the flames. Never pour water on an electrical fire.

On-Campus Policies

Every building at BU has evacuation maps on each floor. Familiarize yourself with the evacuation and R.A.C.E. (Rescue/Remove, Alert/Activate, Confine, Extinguish/Evacuate) plans for your building/floor. Identify two escape routes and practice your evacuation plan.

Certain items are not allowed in on-campus residences—for the safety of all inhabitants.

Prohibited items include, but are not limited to:

  • Open flames, candles, and incense
  • Smoking (applies to all campus buildings)
  • Space heaters, hotplates, hotpots, halogen lamps, and cooking appliances
  • Gasoline, kerosene, and other flammable liquids

See BU’s Lifebook and Safety on Campus websites for more information regarding on-campus fire policies.

Off-Campus Fire Prevention

Off-campus fire safety is equally important to the precautions we take on campus. We can’t regulate non-BU buildings to make sure the highest standards in fire prevention are met. It’s up to you to be vigilant and prepared.

  • Observe “No Smoking” regulations.
  • Store flammable liquids in approved containers away from combustibles.
  • Remove trash on a regular basis.
  • Ensure that all electrical plugs, switches, and cords are in good repair.
  • Don’t overload electrical outlets or run electrical cords across doorways or under carpets or mats.
  • Ensure that heat-producing appliances are well-ventilated and report any malfunctioning appliances to your landlord.
  • Turn off electrical equipment when not in use.
  • Never disconnect or tamper with smoke alarms.
  • Test smoke alarms monthly by pushing the test button.
  • Replace all nonfunctioning smoke alarms immediately.
  • Know where all exits are located in the building.
  • Take fire alarms seriously and have an evacuation plan that ensures you have a secondary route out if the primary route is blocked.
  • Select a good meeting location away from the building for you and your roommates during an alarm.

Gas or Charcoal Outdoor Grills

Charcoal and gas-operated/liquid propane grills are not permitted inside or above the first floor of any building used for habitation. This includes balconies, fire escapes, porches, and roofs.

  • Never use gas or charcoal grills inside a house, garage, or enclosed area.
  • Always locate a barbecue grill away from any combustible wall.
  • Set up grill on a level surface in a well-ventilated space away from low-hanging branches, porch railings, siding, or any combustible materials.
  • Keep a fully charged fire extinguisher within reach.
  • Never store a spare propane cylinder under or near a grill, heat source, or open flame.
  • Make sure there are no blowing embers.
  • Turn off the grill burners and propane cylinders when not in use.
  • If you are using charcoal, be sure to douse the flames thoroughly afterward.


Candles are prohibited for on-campus students. If you are off campus, remember:

  • Never leave candles unattended.
  • Keep candles away from combustibles.
  • Use sturdy candle holders.
  • Use flashlights during power outages.
  • Extinguish all candles when leaving a room or going to sleep.


Smoking is prohibited in on-campus buildings. If you are off campus, remember:

  • Don’t smoke in bed or near flammable materials.
  • Thoroughly extinguish all cigarettes and smoking materials.
  • Check under furniture cushions for cigarette butts that may have fallen out of sight.
  • Properly dispose of all cigarettes and other smoking materials.

Space Heaters

Space heaters are fire hazards and not recommended. They’re not permitted at all in on-campus housing. If you are off campus and must use a space heater, use an Underwriters Laboratories-approved electrical heater and select one that automatically shuts off when knocked over. Remember:

  • Keep the heater clear of all flammables.
  • Plug your electric space heater directly into an outlet with sufficient capacity and never use an extension cord.
  • Never leave space heaters unattended.


Choosing Fire-Safe Housing

Before signing an apartment rental agreement, thoroughly inspect the condition of the building and assess the fire protection systems using the following checklist:

  • Are smoke alarms installed and working?
  • Are there at least two ways to exit your living space?
  • Do the upper floors have a fire escape or ladder for each bedroom?
  • Are the fire alarms and extinguishers inspected regularly?
  • Is there a sprinkler system installed?
  • Is the building regularly inspected by the fire department?
  • Where is the nearest fire hydrant on the street?
  • Did the University recommend the unit for student housing?
  • Has the city and/or University received any safety complaints regarding this building?
  • Do windows in your room and apartment open easily? Are security bars properly maintained?
  • Are exit signs illuminated?
  • Are fire doors kept closed?
  • Are stairwells and exits unobstructed and well lit?

Report in writing any violations or maintenance issues to your landlord. For more information, please contact either the City of Boston Inspectional Services Department at 617-635-5322 or the Town of Brookline Building Department at 617-730-2100.