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Fire Alarms, Fire Drills, & Facilities Evacuations


01.01   This policy establishes procedures for the response to fire alarms and conduct of fire exit drills for University facilities. The evacuation procedures outlined in this policy apply to activation of any alarm including fire, fire exit drill, or other non-fire emergency. Evacuation procedures are applicable to university buildings and also include other university facilities.

01.02   The specific objectives of this policy are to:

a.   Assign administrative responsibility to Environmental Health, Safety and Risk Management (EHS&RM) for facilities evacuation training.

b.   Require compliance with the training provisions of the National Fire Protection Association’s Life Safety Code operating features regarding fire alarms and fire exit drills. The purpose of such training is to facilitate the orderly evacuation of university facilities by faculty, staff, students, and other occupants.

c.   Establish a program to evaluate fire alarms and fire exit drills to ensure that established procedures and fire alarm reporting systems operate efficiently and effectively.

d.   Establish procedures to address evacuation of persons with disabilities in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Sample fire and emergency evacuation procedures for persons with disabilities are included as Attachment I. This sample should serve as a guide for developing individual departmental procedures. The Office of Disability Services (ODS) will inform students with disabilities of the evacuation procedures through the ODS website. The Human Resources Office will inform employees with disabilities of such procedures.

01.03   Failure to comply with this policy may jeopardize the safety of the individual who is in non-compliance, as well as other university employees, students, or rescue personnel. Non-compliance is a serious issue and may result in disciplinary action or financial penalties.

01.04   This policy applies only to fire drills, fire alarms, and facilities evacuation. Refer to the Fire Safety program for policies and procedures associated with all other emergencies or disaster situations.


02.01   Fire Drill – A pre-planned activity designed to test the fire alarms and evacuation procedures

02.02   Fire Alarm – Audible or visual signal from a fire safety system, designed to warn of a potential fire danger or other emergency

02.03   Emergency – A situation that threatens the physical safety of university personnel or property and is not the result of a fire, e.g. bomb threat, environmental conditions

02.04   Fire Official – Fire Department Officer at the scene


03.01   EHS&RM has responsibility for conducting fire exit drills, as detailed below. EHS&RM will coordinate such drills with the dean or director of each area.

OCCUPANCY                 SEMESTER              QUARTERLY            MONTHLY

Residence Halls                       X

Health Care                                                           X



Child Development                                                                            X

Center (CDC)


Other Buildings              At the discretion of the Director of EHS&RM or at the request of a department head

a.   Residence halls will conduct one fire drill each fall and spring semester. A fire alarm activated accidentally during the first thirty days of a semester may be credited toward the fire exit drill requirement. Residence hall directors may request additional fire exit drills, if deemed necessary, to ensure the resident staff and students are familiar with the building evacuation procedures.

b.   Health Care Facilities – for accreditation, a quarterly fire exit drill will be conducted for each shift.

c.   The Child Development Center (CDC) to comply with the minimum standards for day care centers will conduct a fire exit drill once each month.

d.   All other buildings – An annual fire exit drill will be conducted at the discretion of the Director of EHS&RM, or at the request of a department head.

e.   The Director of EHS&RM will include the San Marcos Fire Department (SMFD) in university fire drills and training, on an as-needed basis, to assure SMFD is familiar with the university procedures, facilities, and emergency personnel.


04.01   EHS&RM has primary responsibility for conducting training programs under this policy. EHS&RM provides fire response training in several ways:

a.   NEW EMPLOYEE ORIENTATION – A fire/safety briefing will be given to all new staff employees at the monthly New Employee Orientation conducted by the Professional Development Office.

b.   NEW FACULTY ORIENTATION – A fire/safety briefing will be given to all new faculty employees in conjunction with the New Faculty Orientation sessions conducted by Academic Development & Assessment.

c.   RESIDENCE HALLS – EHS&RM will conduct training on fire drill and evacuation procedures for resident directors and resident assistants at the beginning of each semester.

d.   STUDENT HEALTH CENTER – EHS&RM will conduct training for Student Health Center employees consistent with accreditation requirements and the Center’s Fire Safety Plan.

e.   ASSEMBLY OCCUPANCIES – Local, state, and federal fire codes require that owner/operators of facilities with assembly occupancies greater than 1,000 have fully-trained crowd managers. These staff members are to be versed on space, energy, time, and metering techniques which are essential to effective crowd management in large assembly halls or other required areas. EHS&RM will ensure that crowd managers are designated and trained annually.

f.    OTHER DEPARTMENTS – At the request of a department head, EHS&RM will conduct a fire/safety class in the workplace for department employees. All department heads are encouraged to arrange a fire/safety class for their sections on a biannual basis.

04.02   Fire Training Programs will include the following subjects:

a.   Chemistry of fire – prevention and extinguishment

b.   Fire alarm systems

c.   Use of building fire extinguishers

d.   Crowd management

04.03   Department heads will assure that their employees are familiar with fire exit and building evacuation procedures. Procedures should include the following requirements:

a.   When the fire alarm is activated, all building occupants are required to evacuate the building.

b.   When a fire drill is conducted, alert all building personnel that a fire drill is in progress. The building fire alarm should then be activated as a means of alerting the occupants.

c.   Utilize the building communication intercom system, if available, to notify occupants of the nature of the alarm. An announcement should be made stating that a fire drill is in progress and direct all occupants to evacuate the building.

d.   Intercom announcements should identify the area or zone of the building.  For residence halls, the announcement should identify the zone of the alarm by referring to the fire alarm panel in the building.

e.   Direct rescue operations to the building zone of the alarm.

f.    Have personnel report to a designated central location outside the building. Procedures must be established to account for building occupants.

g.   Remain outside of the building until the building has been checked for fire and occupants. The senior university police officer on the scene will give the building occupants permission to re-enter the building.

04.04   Resident directors will conduct a training session with their residence hall staff and provide each staff member with a copy of detailed evacuation procedures prior to each fall and spring semester. The session will cover at least the following items:

a.   The identification of students with disabilities, their location of residence in campus residence halls, and procedures for the evacuation of persons with disabilities in the event of a fire or fire exit drill;

b.   Identification of all fire extinguishing and fire alarm equipment located in the residence hall;

c.   Procedures for spreading the alarm and ensuring evacuation of all building occupants from the building;

d.   A complete review of the hall evacuation plan; and,

e.   Requirement that all entrances and exit routes (corridors, hallways, and aisles) are clear of furniture, storage items, or other obstructions.


05.01   The Director of EHS&RM or his or her representative is the only University official authorized to conduct a fire exit drill and to activate a fire alarm for such drills. The Director of EHS&RM will coordinate with the SMFD for joint participation.

05.02   The occupants of each residence hall, academic or administrative building are expected to participate fully in the drill.

05.03   Fire drills in an academic building will be scheduled to start ten minutes prior to the end of the academic class.

05.04   Resident Directors/Resident Assistants

a.   Upon sounding of the building fire alarm or having been notified, resident directors and resident assistants or their representative on duty will:

1)   Alert occupants within their sector and cause them to evacuate according to drill procedures and assemble at the assigned evacuation station outside of the building;

2)   Insure occupants do not attempt to use elevators. Evacuation must be accomplished by the use of stairwells; and,

3)   Assist, as necessary, persons with disabilities to the point of safe refuge.


b.   The resident director will hold the resident assistants accountable for:

1)   Adhering strictly to emergency evacuation procedures during fire drills; and

2)   Performing such other duties as may be assigned by the resident director during the drill.


05.05   The Director of EHS&RM

a.   The Director of EHS&RM will review the results of all fire drills and evacuation procedures.

b.   Prior to initiating the alarm for a fire exit drill, the Director of EHS&RM will take the following actions:

1)   Alert the Director of the University Police Department (UPD), allowing sufficient time for their participation if desired;

2)   Alert the SMFD, allowing sufficient time for their participation if desired;

3)   Notify the Director of Housing and Residential Life of the impending drill;

4)   Report to the residence hall or building involved to observe the procedures; and

5)   Have available the Fire Exit Drill and Building Evacuation Procedure Evaluation form (Attachment II).


c.   Upon sounding the building fire alarm, the Director of EHS&RM will:

1)   Closely observe the practices used for compliance to the written procedures;

2)   Closely evaluate all the factors and note appropriately on the evacuation/fire drill checklist;

3)   Avail himself or herself of all information related to any absences and take appropriate action;

4)   Coordinate the services of the SMFD with UPD to direct traffic from the area, to protect fire equipment, and to provide emergency communications; and

5)   Upon the determination that the building is ready to be reoccupied, the Director of EHS&RM will advise the resident director and UPD to notify occupants that re-entry is authorized.

d.   The Director of Housing and Residential Life or designee will:

1)   Report to the scene (when practical) to observe the drill procedure for compliance;

2)   Take notice of any procedural problems for the purpose of discussion with the resident director;

3)   Upon completion of a fire exit drill, secure all pertinent data for evaluation purposes and arrange for a debriefing with the resident director; and

4)   In the event of a fire requiring relocation of students, will initiate emergency housing procedures.

05.06   Unauthorized activation of a fire alarm in a non-emergency situation by a student or employee may result in disciplinary action or financial consequences. This is also a criminal offense, under Section 42.06 of the Texas Penal Code, and criminal prosecution may result in addition to any university sanction.


06.01   Because of the danger posed by an actual fire or other non-fire emergency, any individual may activate a fire alarm to alert others to an imminent danger in or near a university facility.

06.02   UPD has primary authority during an actual fire and other non-fire emergency. UPD will coordinate with the SMFD, San Marcos Police Department, and other emergency/rescue personnel. EHS&RM and other university departments will serve as support staff for the emergency situation, as needed by UPD.

06.03   Evacuation procedures for buildings and other university facilities will be as follows:

a.   The facility will be evacuated according to the procedures outlined for fire exit drills. Residents or building occupants should proceed to a designated area outside and away from the building.

b.   If possible, UPD and the SMFD should be contacted by telephone immediately after an alarm has been sounded. The person calling will identify the location, type and extent of the fire, and any personal knowledge of persons in imminent danger.

c.   Upon arrival of fire officials at the scene, the building managers will report to the senior fire official for information and instructions.

06.04   Re-entry procedures will be as follows:

a.   The SMFD will return control of the building to the occupants through UPD. UPD will notify the building manager when the building is cleared for occupancy.

b.   The building manager will assist UPD in notifying occupants that the building is cleared for occupancy.

c.   No one will be allowed to re-enter the building for any reason until the building is released by the fire official or UPD.


07.01   Upon completion of each fire exit drill or after facilities evacuation (due to a fire or other non-fire emergency), a written evaluation will be prepared by the Director of EHS&RM. 

07.02    The fire exit drill evaluations will address:

a.   Evacuation time and efficiency;

b.   Student, faculty, and staff safety;

c.   Response time:

1)   SMFD (where appropriate),

2)   University Police units.


d.   Effectiveness of evacuation procedures:

1)   Training;

2)   Routes and exits.


e.   Procedural deficiencies;

f.    Recommendations for improvement in procedures; and,

g.   Recommendations for alterations in the facility.

07.03   Distribution of the evaluation will be as follows:

a.   For residence halls:

1)   Vice President for Student Affairs;

2)   Director, Housing and Residential Life;

3)   Resident Director;

4)   Chief, University Police Department;

5)   Associate Vice President for Facilities;

6)   Associate Vice President for Financial Services; and

7)   University Safety Committee.


b.   For other facilities (non-resident):

1)   Divisional vice president/provost (where appropriate);

2)   Department heads of facilities involved;

3)   Associate Vice President for Facilities;

4)   Associate Vice President for Financial Services

5)   Chief, University Police Department; and

6)   University Safety Committee.

c.   Recommendations for revising procedures impacting other university departments shall be routed to those departments for their input and consideration.

d.   Building and fire systems found to be non-compliant will be noted in the evaluation and reported to the Associate Vice President for Facilities for repairs or the department managers for corrective action. Departments or individuals who have caused non-compliance may be charged for repairs or other cost of compliance.


08.01   Reviewers of this policy include the following:

Position                                                            Date

University Safety Committee


University Safety Committee, Chairman


Director, Environmental Health, Safety
& Risk Management