Fire Prevention

Fire Prevention is a way to use a common sense approach in conjunction with fire codes to reduce the chance of a fire from occurring. Making yourself familiar with a few basic requirements and guidelines will allow you to contribute to a safer work place.

Listed within this section, you will find a few common fire code violations found around campus. The use of extension cords and power strips, door cards not being updated and obstructed egress routes due to storage are huge culprits found routinely during facility inspections.

If you identify a potential fire hazard or safety concern, you have a couple of options for reporting your concerns. You can talk with your facility manager and ask your facility manager to follow-up on the issue or you can contact Fire & Life Safety. If you chose to contact Fire & Life Safety your call can remain anonymous. We would however request a contact telephone number in case we have some follow-up questions or need clarification.

Phone: 608-265-5000 (Ext: 6)

Jeff Schiller
Environmental Health Manager (Fire & Life Safety)
Cell phone: 608-225-7693

Fire Prevention Guidance by Hazard

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Bonding and Grounding

  • The physical connection between two or more conductive objects and a ground.
  • Used when transferring flammable or combustible liquids from one container to another, such as transfer from a bulk drum.
  • Provides an electrically conductive pathway for static electricity to follow.
  • Prevents accidental ignition of flammable liquids when transferring containers.

How to make the connections:

  • A wire clamped between the containers, and at least one of the containers is connected to ground.
  • Connection should be through clean bare metal. Rust, paint, and dirt will prevent a good electrical connection.
  • Verify that all connections are secure and provide a good electrical pathway.

Bond Wire Example


Figure 1. Bonding. Connecting two or more conductive containers to give them the same electrical potential.

Ground Wire Example


Figure 2. Grounding. Providing a means for electrical charge to be dissipated to ground.


For more information and diagrams on setting up bonding and grounding systems contact Fire & Life Safety at


University of Wisconsin System administrative code UWS 18.10 Offenses against public safety (4) Fire Safety states: “No person may light, build, or use, or cause another to light, build or use, any fire, including but not limited to burning candles, burning incense or gas or charcoal cooking appliances, on university land or in university facilities except in such places that are established for these purposes.

For more information; including national statistics related to candle fire visit: Fire Safety & Candles published by the National Candle Association.

Combustible Storage and Fueled Equipment

Combustible Storage

Storage of combustible materials in buildings shall be orderly and separated from heat, heaters, or heating devices by a distance that ignition cannot occur.

Storage shall be maintained 2 feet or more below the ceiling in areas of a building without a sprinkler.

Storage shall be maintained 18 inches or more below the sprinkler head deflectors in areas of a building with a sprinkler.

Combustible materials shall not be stored in boiler rooms, mechanical rooms, or electrical equipment rooms.

Combustible material shall be kept a minimum of 3 feet from any battery charging station. Battery charging shall not be conducted in areas accessible to the public.

Liquefied Petroleum (LP) Powered Equipment

Industrial trucks (and forklifts) shall be refueled outdoors. The fuel system shall be equipped to minimize the release of fuel when cylinders are exchanged indoors by:

  • Using an approved quick-closing coupling in the fuel line
  • Closing the shut-off valve at the LP cylinder and allowing the engine to run until the fuel in the line is exhausted

The use of LP powered industrial trucks, including forklifts, in a building accessible by the public is allowed as long as the capacity of the LP cylinder does not exceed 105 lb. Also the LP powered vehicle, including forklifts, shall not be left unattended while not in use with the LP cylinder installed.

At the end of each shift, the LP powered vehicle, or forklift, LP tank shall be removed from the unit and placed in a secured outdoor storage rack. At no time shall an LP tank be left on a LP powered vehicle, or forklift, overnight.

Fueled Equipment in Buildings

Fueled equipment includes motorcycles, mopeds, lawn-care equipment, portable generators, portable cooking equipment, snow blowers or motor vehicles shall not be stored, operated or repaired within a building unless one of one or more of the following exceptions allows.

  • The building or room is constructed for such use in accordance with the IBC.
  • Liquid or gas fueled vehicles (or other motorcraft) have done the following
  1. Battery is disconnected
  2. Fuel in tank has been remove
  3. Fuel tank has vented for 15 minutes
  4. Equipment has been run dry of fuel
  5. Disconnect spark plug
  6. Fuel tanks and fill openings are closed and sealed
  7. Fuel is not filled or emptied from the equipment within the building

Common University Fire Code Violations

Ceiling Clearance

  • Storage shall be maintained (2 feet or more) below the ceiling in nonsprinklered areas of building
  • Storage shall be a minimum of 18” below sprinkler head deflectors in sprinklered areas of building

Ceiling Panel, Removal

  • Ceiling tiles shall be replaced at the end of a day to insure smoke and heat does not escape into interstitial space

Clearance, Electrical

  • Provide 36 inches of clearance in front of electrical control boxes.

Exit Signs

  • Provide illumination for all exit signs

Externsion Cords, Discontinue Use

  • Discontinue use of extension cords. Extension cords shall only be used for temporary wiring and shall not be substituted for permanent wiring.
  • Extension cords shall not be attached to structures or be extended through walls, ceilings, floors, under or through doors or floor coverings. Extension cords may not be plugged into one another.
  • Extension cords may not be plugged into power strips.

Fire Doors “Keep Closed and Latched”

  • Fire doors shall be kept in the “closed” position or held open by an approved device.
  • The use of door stops, wedges, and other non approved hold-open devices are prohibited.

Fire Doors Self-Closing Maintained

  • Fire doors shall be equipped with self-closing devices and such devices shall be maintained in working order. Fire door shall latch upon closing.

Fueled Equipment Storage in Building, Discontinue Practice

  • Including but not limited to snow blowers, outboard boat motors, leaf blowers, lawn-care equipment, portable generators, mopeds, cooking equipment, shall not be stored, operated, or repaired within a building

Laboratory Emergency Information Card, Annual Updates Needed

  • Used by emergency response personnel to assess space prior to entry (fire, spill, injury)
  • Annual updates are required
  • Accurately complete ALL sections of the “door card”

LP Use and Storage in Building, Discontinue Practice

  • LPG gas grill type cylinders, LPG fork-lift cylinders, LPG street sweeper cylinders shall not be stored in any UW building.
  • LPG powered vehicle cylinders shall be disconnected, removed from the vehicle and stored outdoors at the end of each day.
  • LPG cylinders with a maximum water capacity less than 2.5 pounds are allowed to be stored in a building but not to exceed 200 pounds.

Obstruction of Means of Egress

  • Remove any/all obstructions in the means of egress. Maintain a clear path of travel width of at least 44” from the exit to the exit discharge.
  1. Exit Access: Exit access leads from an occupied space to an exit.
  2. Exit: An exit is a fire-rated space (hallway or corridor) connecting the exit access to the exit discharge
  3. Exit Discharge: Exit discharge is the portion of the means of egress that leads you from the termination of the exit to the public way (sidewalk, parking lot).

Extension Cords and Relocatable Power Taps

“Extension cord” means a cord set consisting of a length of flexible cord with an attachment plug at one end and a cord connector, which permits the connection of one or more attachment plugs, at the other end.

“Relocatable power tap” means a system consisting of an attachment plug cap and a length of flexible cord terminated in an enclosure in which one or more receptacles are mounted. A relocatable power tap may be provided with supplementary overcurrent protection, switches, indicator lights, transient voltage surge suppressors, or electromagnetic interference filters.

Listing: Extension cords and relocatable power taps shall be listed by an approved nationally recognized testing agency.

General Requirements:

  1. Extension cords shall only be used for temporary wiring and shall not be substituted for permanent wiring.
  2. Extension cords shall be of a 3-wire grounding type when used in conjunction with devices equipped with 3-prong grounding type attachment plugs.
  3. Ampacity: The current carrying capacity of the extension cord or relocatable power tap may not be exceeded.
  4. Use of Extension Cords and Relocatable Power Taps:
    1. Extension cords and relocatable power taps may not be multiplied or plugged into one another.
    2. Extension cords may be used for temporary wiring at construction sites provided the cords comply with Article 305 of the National Electrical Code as adopted in Wis. Admin. Code ch. Comm 16.
    3. Extension cords shall be permitted only with portable appliances, hand tools or fixtures.
    4. Relocatable power taps are permitted only with portable electronic equipment such as audio-visual equipment, computers and peripheral equipment.
    5. Except for listed adapter cord sets intended for construction site use, each extension cord shall serve only one portable appliance, hand tool or fixture.
    6. The ampacity of the extension cords shall not be less that the rated capacity of the portable appliance supplied by the cord.
    7. Extension cords shall be maintained in good condition without splices, deterioration or damage.
  5. Physical Protection:
    1. Extension cords and relocatable power taps shall be protected from physical impact and environmental damage.
    2. Extension cords and relocatable power taps may not be attached to structures or placed under doors or floor coverings.

Grilling Requirements

The use of charcoal or gas cooking appliances on university land is allowed in such places that are designated for the specific purpose. Please contact Fire & Life Safety if you have further questions.

General Grill Safety Tips

  • NEVER use a grill indoors (e.g., home, tent, vehicle). The toxic gas produced by charcoal or gas grilling are extremely dangerous and can kill without warning.
  • Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Perform an annual safety inspection prior to the first seasonal use of a grill.
  • Never leave cooking unattended.
  • Periodically remove grease buildup from the grill surfaces and the trays below the grill so the grease is not ignited by the hot grill.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher nearby and accessible.
  • Never allow children to use the grill. Create a safety zone of at least 3 feet around the grill and place the grill a safe distance from play areas.
  • Place the grill at least 10 feet from combustible materials such as siding, decks, tree branches, etc.
  • Avoid Burns: Use proper utensils with long handles that allow the chef plenty of clearance from the heat and flames.
  • Do not wear loose clothing while cooking.

Gas Grill Safety Tips

Do NOT under any circumstance store a LP tank inside of a university building.

Consumers should use caution when storing LP gas containers. Always keep containers upright. Never store a spare gas container under or near the grill or indoors. Never store or use flammable liquids, like gasoline, near the grill.

To avoid accidents while transporting LP gas containers, consumers should transport the container in a secure, upright position. Never keep a filled container in a hot car or car trunk. Heat will cause the gas pressure to increase which may open the relief valve and allow gas to escape.

Liquid petroleum (LP) gas or propane, used in gas grills, is highly flammable. Each year about 30 people are injured as a result of gas grill fires and explosions. Many of these fires and explosions occur when consumers use a grill that has been left idle for a period of time or just after refilling and reattaching the grill’s gas container. Use extreme caution and always follow manufacturer’s instructions when connecting or disconnecting LP gas containers. To reduce the risk of fire or explosion, consumers should routinely perform the following safety checks:

  • Check the tubes that lead into the burner for any blockage from insects, spiders, or food grease.
  • Use a pipe cleaner or wire to clear blockage and push it through to the main part of the burner.
  • Check grill hoses for cracking, brittleness, holes, and leaks.
  • Make sure there are no sharp bends in the hose or tubing.
  • Move gas hoses as far away as possible from hot surfaces and dripping hot grease.
  • If you can’t move the hoses, install a heat shield to protect them.
  • Replace scratched or nicked connectors, which can eventually leak gas.
  • Check for gas leaks, following the manufacturer’s instructions, if you smell gas or when you reconnect the grill to the LP gas container.
  • If you detect a leak, immediately turn off the gas and don’t attempt to light the grill until the leak is fixed.
  • Keep lit cigarettes, matches, or open flames away from a leaking grill
  • Never use a grill indoors. Use the grill at least 10 feet away from your house or any building.
  • Do not use the grill in a garage, breezeway, carport, porch, or under a surface that can catch fire.
  • Do not attempt to repair the tank valve or the appliance yourself. See an LP gas dealer or a qualified appliance repair person. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions that accompany the grill.

Charcoal Grill Safety Tips

Charcoal produces carbon monoxide (CO) when it is burned. CO is a colorless, odorless gas that can accumulate to toxic levels in closed environments. Each year about 30 people die and 100 are injured as a result of CO fumes from charcoal grills and hibachis used indoors.

  • Never burn charcoal inside of homes, vehicles, tents, or campers. Charcoal should never be used indoors, even if ventilation is provided.
  • Since charcoal produces CO fumes until the charcoal is completely extinguished, do not store the grill indoors with freshly used coals.
  • Make sure charcoal has been completely extinguished before disposing of the ashes and storing the grill. Ashes may reignite 48 to 72 hours after use. Do not dispose of ashes in a trash bin/dumpster.
  • If using a fluid to start the charcoal grill, use only starter fluid intended for this purpose. It is extremely dangerous to use any other combustible liquid to start the coals.
  • Never apply charcoal lighter (starter) fluid after the charcoal has been lit.

Laboratory Use of Refrigerators and Freezers

NFPA 45 Fire Protection for Laboratories Using Chemicals outlines requirements for flammable and combustible liquid storage in refrigerators. In short, flammable liquids are never to be stored in an unmodified domestic refrigerator. There are too many ignition sources within these units.

If flammable/combustible materials need to be kept cold, these materials need to be kept in an explosion proof, laboratory-safe, or a modified domestic model refrigerator.

  • Explosion proof refrigerator is designed to protect against ignition of flammable vapors both inside and outside of the refrigerator
  • Laboratory-safe (or explosion-safe) refrigerator is designed to eliminate ignition of vapors inside the unit.
  • Modified domestic refrigerators are modified domestic units, when modified by a professional electrician following strict guidelines outlined in NFPA 70, are permitted to be used to store flammable/combustible liquids.

Labeling of these units needs to be clear. EH&S will provide a “No Flammable” sticker that should be placed on all refrigerators/freezers not approved to store flammable and combustible materials. If you have a refrigerator/freezer in need of a “No Flammables” sticker, contact Fire & Life at: Include your building number in the subject field.