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4.3 Fire safety and related matters


4.3.1 Fire Safety

Fire is probably the biggest single danger in multiple-occupancy buildings. In recent years, unsupervised or dangerous electrical equipment, whether in gyp rooms or the rooms of individual students, has caused a number of fires that could easily have led to loss of life. Irresponsible behaviour involving the fire detection and alarm systems has led to students being fined and threatened with the sanction of being obliged to live out of College.

All members of College must also be aware of the ease with which electrical equipment can catch fire under certain conditions and must be vigilant in ensuring that their personal electrical items are safe and kept under surveillance when in use. Failure to observe the College’s fire regulations and procedures can have potentially catastrophic consequences. This means that all students should be aware of potential dangers of fire and follow these basic guidelines:

  • Familiarise yourself with escape routes and assembly points.
  • Don’t leave washing to dry in fire escapes or leave or store your personal belongings in corridors or on stairwells.
  • The use of fairy lights, candles, joss sticks or other naked flames is expressly forbidden. Fire doors, (especially doors to gyp rooms), should never be wedged open or obstructed.
  • Gyp room doors should be kept closed when cooking.
  • Your cooking should not be left unattended.
  • Cooking in your room (including the use of sandwich makers, toasters or similar) is not permitted.
  • Always keep flammable materials (clothes, books, papers etc.) away from heat sources such as kettles, hair tongs/straighteners, radiators, light bulbs, and any supplementary heating provided to students (e.g. portable radiators). Use the heat-proof stand provided in your room when using electrical appliances.
  • Do not hang your own curtains, or put wall hangings, personal furniture, or alternative lampshades in your room. They are a potential fire hazard. Those provided by the College are fire retardant and meet current fire regulations.

4.3.2 Fire Extinguishers

Fire extinguishers are fitted in communal areas to assist staff to deal with small fires. The College views with concern any interference with fire safety equipment, which is provided and maintained for the safety of all members of the College. This includes letting off, or tampering with, fire extinguishers (except in the event of a fire), the jamming open of fire doors, the improper use or removal of keys to emergency exits, and interference with, or improper use of, fire escapes and fire exits. Tampering with fire safety equipment is now also a criminal offence.

Given the potentially serious, and possibly fatal, consequences of the wilful misuse of fire equipment, severe penalties will be imposed on those found responsible for such misuse or damage, or for encouraging others in such misuse or damage. These may include the withdrawal of the privilege of living in College, or College-owned accommodation. In addition, payment in full will be demanded for all damage caused. Under no circumstances would a plea that alcohol or other substance misuse reduced an individual’s judgement be entertained as a mitigating factor. Severe penalties will also be imposed on those who infringe the regulations regarding the use of candles in College accommodation, or who, by other acts or through articles stored in their room, increase the risk of fire.

4.3.4 Fire Detection and Alarm

All areas in College are equipped with automated fire detection and alarm equipment linked to the Porters’ Lodge. The fire detection system is necessarily highly sensitive. Leaning against call points, unattended cooking, burnt toast, steam from showers and spraying deodorant directly underneath a detector are just some of the actions that can trigger a ‘false’ alarm. Each alarm which sounds MUST be treated by all as a potential fire, and students are required to evacuate the staircase or hostel. Each year Porters have to respond to a significant number of unwanted alarms caused by careless actions. It is in everyone’s interests to work to reduce the number of such incidents.

4.3.5 Fire Escapes

Each staircase has its means of escape clearly marked. It is important that escape routes, especially the open staircases of Old Court, which, in the event of a fire, can act as a chimney and speed the spread of smoke, are kept clear of flammable material, such as paper, cardboard boxes, clothing, etc. Escape routes must also be kept clear of personal property, furniture and other items. Regular inspections will be made of these areas, and disciplinary action will be taken if escape routes are blocked.

All members of College need to understand how to act in the event of a fire alarm. Instructions are provided behind the door in each student room. Everyone has a responsibility to know their escape routes, fire exits and fire assembly point. Information about these is posted on notices around the College and is also given below:

OLD COURT: OLD COURT LAWN Staircases A, B, C, D, E, F, G; Bar; Catering Department; Chapel; College Nurse; Hall; Housekeeping; Master’s Lodge; Porters' Lodge.
CRIPPS COURT: CRIPPS COURT LAWN Staircases H, I, J, K, L, M, N; Computer Room; MCR.
ANN'S COURT: ANN'S COURT LAWN Staircases O, P, Q, R; College Offices; Computer Room; JCR; TV Room; Library.

Fire doors in the College (including doors to all student rooms) are designed to withstand smoke and fire for at least 30 minutes. If your escape route is cut off, you should remain behind a fire door until rescued.

4.3.6 Fire Alarm Tests

Weekly fire alarm tests are carried out in all College buildings and test times are posted on notice boards around the College. Fire alarm tests are not completed during the two examination quiet periods.

4.3.7 Fire Drills

The Head Porter is responsible for arranging fire drills for each staircase and hostel, and a log is kept of all drills. Generally, drills will take place once during the Michaelmas and Lent Terms, although re-testing may take place if responses have been slow or incorrect (e.g. going to the wrong assembly point). ALWAYS respond promptly to fire alarms, even if you suspect it may be a false alarm, or a drill. Students have a legal duty to co-operate with College staff during fire drills.

4.3.8 Cooking

Selwyn is not a self-catering College and the facilities on each staircase are intended for the preparation of light snacks only. Each gyp room (or mini kitchen) has a sink, microwave oven, kettle, toaster, hob and fridge. Hobs and electrical sockets in gyp rooms are in the process of being fitted with 15-minute timers as a fire prevention measure. For safety reasons, no food cooking or heating appliances other than kettles may be used in your room, and deep-frying in not permitted in gyps. Small appliances such as toasters, sandwich toasters, indoor grills and similar appliances may be used in gyp rooms at the user’s own risk, provided they have been registered for use within the College and they meet applicable standards. Registration forms are provided to students at the beginning of each academic year and are also available at the Porters’ Lodge.

Cooking Appliance Registration Form

4.3.9 Electrical Safety and Fittings

Power points on staircases are of the 3-pin, 13 amp fuse variety. The following rules are intended to safeguard personal safety and prevent overloading of the supply:

  • One multi-way extension lead may be used in each room, provided it is of the distributor block with trailing lead type and is fused. Cable reels are dangerous and must not be used.
  • Never attempt to force 2-pin or other non-UK compliant plugs into 3-pin sockets or use any equipment that is not rated for 250 volts or for use in the UK. The use of 2- or 3-pin adaptors with electrical cooking appliances is prohibited.

Under no circumstances must anyone tamper with College electrical equipment or supply. If you are in any doubt about these rules, you should seek advice from College Staff.