When to Re-enter or Not to Re-enter – That is the Question!-Environmental Health & Safety - Carnegie Mellon University

When to Re-enter or Not to Re-enter – That is the Question!

We all know that when a building's fire alarm system activates for whatever reason you are to evacuate the building via your primary exit route in a quick, orderly fashion. Your exit strategy should also include a secondary escape route in the event that your quickest egress path (primary exit route) out of the building becomes compromised.  Once out of the building you should look to gather at pre-determined assembly locations away from the building. These assembly location(s) could vary depending on which door you exit from.

Let's assume you have successfully discharged from the building, now the question becomes when you are permitted to re-enter the building. Is it when you can no longer hear the fire alarm sounding? Is it when you become too cold and/or wet from the weather? Is it when you feel like it or see other occupants re-entering the building?

PolicemanThe only correct answer is when you are given permission to re-enter from the incident commander, be they fire, police or EMS personnel. Just because you can no longer hear the fire alarm going off does not mean that is your cue to re-enter the building. The alarm could be silenced while the emergency personnel continue their investigation. The alarm may be silenced to improve emergency communication between responders.  Regardless of the reason why a fire alarm is silenced it is not silenced as a method to notify you the building occupants that it is permissible to re-enter the building.

 I applaud your effort in evacuating a building when the fire alarm sounds.   I ask that you gather at assembly locations away from the building so as not to impede the progress of emergency responders. I implore you to wait outside until you are told by emergency officials that it is safe to re-enter the building despite the silencing of the fire alarm signal!!

By: Richard Caruso, rmcaruso@andrew.cmu.edu, (412) 268-9404