Fire Safety

Residential Information

The Residence Halls at the University of South Florida are designed for a reasonable level of fire safety. The fire alarms, sprinkler systems, smoke detectors, and extinguishers are all inspected on a regular basis. There are fire safety instructions and procedures in effect in all halls, designed to enhance safety and minimize the hazard of fire and smoke. In addition, Housing Administration works closely with the University's Department of Environmental Health and Safety to take every precaution to ensure your safety in an event of fire.

Despite these efforts fires can still occur. Therefore fire prevention is everyone's responsibility and the manner in which residents react in the event of a fire can mean the difference between life and death.

For these reasons, the following items listed below are things you can do in your residence to assist the fire and life safety prevention program:

Fire Drills:

Fire drills are required once each semester, during the first three weeks of each academic term to test fire alarm systems and fire reporting procedures under simulated emergency conditions. A fire drill once each month is recommended. Drills shall not be conducted at regularly scheduled times, and shall be held without warning except to the University Police Department (UPD) and alarm technicians or Housing Maintenance Staff. The Division of Environmental Health and Safety require that all Residential Facilities including Greek with a chapter house to conduct fire drills during the first three weeks of the semester. Such drills ensure familiarity with exits which in turn ensures that everyone gets out of the building promptly and in an organized manner to a place of safety. Below are the steps to follow when establishing and participating in both on-Campus and off-Campus chapter house fire drills.


1.   The Residence Assistants with the assistance a Fire Safety Specialist will arrange, conduct, and record drill results.

  • The Fire Safety Specialist shall be the person in charge at all fire drills in the event an actual fire emergency occurs.
  • The Residential Assistants shall coordinate drill scheduling with University Police.
  • The fire drill evacuation plan shall include all personnel in the building.  This includes all residents, visitors, guests, employees, and attendants.  There are no excuses for not participating.  Everyone must leave the building during the drill period.

2. Diagram and post two routes to the outside from all rooms, especially from bedrooms.

3. Designate a meeting place outdoors which is away from the building and clear of entrances.  The designated meeting place should be at least 100 feet from the building.

4. Locate a method of calling 9-1-1 near the designated meeting place that does not involve re-entering the building.

5. Anyone who is unable to evacuate the building due to a disability must shelter in the area of refuge/rescue.

6. Establish a method to account for those known to be in the building at the time the alarm is sounded.  In case of actual fire conditions, information regarding persons believed to be in the building should be made available to responding emergency personnel.  (Do not return inside.  Only trained search and rescue personnel should re-enter an evacuated area.)

7.  The Fire Safety Specialist (If present) shall terminate the fire drill by:

  • Informing Physical Plant alarm technicians to reset the building alarm system.
  • Notify building occupants that they are allowed to return to the building by giving the "all clear" signal.
  • Notifying the appropriate dispatcher(s), that the drill has been completed.
  • Make a written record of the date, time, and results of the drill.

8. The Residence Assistants should meet directly after each fire drill to evaluate the success of the drill and work out details which have been faulty or misunderstood.

9. The Residence Assistants shall submit a copy of the Fire Drill Report to the Environmental Health and Safety within 48 hours.  A copy of the drill shall be maintained in the Residential records.

Hazards in Residence Halls and Residents' Rooms Decorations: Flammable items such as tapestries, fishnets, parachutes, sheets and paper may not be hung from walls or ceilings. All decorations (holiday, etc.) must be treated with flame retardant.   Christmas trees must be artificial, bearing UL labels. Real trees, natural wreaths, etc. present an extreme fire hazard once they dry and are prohibited on USF. No decorations that extend down hallway walls are allowed. Decorations must clear all sprinkler heads by at least 18 inches.

Electrical Overloads: To reduce the risk of fire resulting from overloaded circuits, we strongly recommend the use of a multi-plug circuit breaker outlet if more outlets are needed. Extension cords are a major cause of residential fires – avoid using them. If your circuit breaker trips, it is possible someone on the circuit is overloading it or using a defective appliance. If this happens, report it to the hall office. Also, too many of certain types of appliances such as coffee makers, popcorn poppers, hair dryers, and curling irons may overload the circuits.

Appliances: Electrical appliances that can generate heat or malfunction should never be left unattended. They should be unplugged after use and not stored until they are cool enough to touch.

Portable Electric Heaters: Personal portable electric heaters should not be used except under extraordinary circumstances and after conditional written approval by the Department of Housing. UL listed baseboard heaters distributed by the Department of Housing are acceptable provided the circuits are not overloaded and other safety precautions are observed. Open flames: Open flame devices are not permitted in student rooms. Many fires occurring in residence hall are a result of burning candles. Camp stoves, candles, open coil heating or cooking elements, lava lamps, kerosene lamps, etc., can be extremely hazardous. Additionally burning incense is not allowed. Cooking on barbecue grills and hibachis is not allowed in or around the halls.   Activities such as making candles or waxing skis are not permitted in your room or areas in the halls other than those designated.

Trash: All combustibles, such as paper, should be disposed of in outdoor trash bins as soon as possible. Full wastebaskets and recycling bins are an invitation for fire. Never place newspapers or other combustible or flammable materials in corridors, stairwells, or other common areas.

Flammable Liquids (and other hazardous chemicals): Gasoline, ether, paint, glue, etc. are not permitted in student rooms or storage areas. Motorized vehicles are not allowed in the buildings under any circumstances.

Smoking: Smoking is prohibited in all Residence Halls and Greek Housing. Smoking in bed is extremely dangerous and is one of the primary causes of fires in living areas. Careless disposal of matches and cigarette butts is also a common cause of fire.

Halogen Lamps: Due to the high temperatures emitted from halogen lamps, they are prohibited in the residence halls. It has been reported that many fires are caused by materials coming in contact with the halogen bulb or other parts of the lamp.

Foam rubber: Foam rubber emits deadly toxic gases when it burns and should not be used in student rooms. Most "bean-bag" chairs are stuffed with foam rubber. Foam rubber-filled items are prohibited in student rooms.

Cooking: Cook safely and only in permitted and designated areas or kitchens using proper appliances. Microwaves can cause burns, or even start a fire.

Tampering with Fire Alarm System. The fire alarm system and firefighting equipment in the residence halls are for your protection.   Tampering with smoke detectors, sprinkler heads, sprinkler piping, alarm boxes, and fire extinguishers is prohibited. Remember, this is your life safety equipment. You will be held accountable and liable for any damage that may endanger the lives of other residents. Hanging items from the sprinkler head or pipes is prohibited. It is a felony of the third degree punishable by a $5,000 fine and/or jail term. (F.S. 860.10 (1))

False Alarms

Fire alarms may be set off in residence halls accidentally or due to tampering. How do you know if it is a false alarm? You don't!   So get out!  

Residential Fire Safety Institute- a public interest group created in 1982 to promote fire-safe through built-in fire protection and fire safety education (link)

Home Safety Checklist