Carnegie Mellon University

Fire Related Emergencies  

If You Discover a Fire

Life safety is ALWAYS the highest priority in any type of emergency. 

If you discover a fire:

  • Activate the building’s fire alarm system to evacuate the occupants
  • Attempt to quickly put out the fire by using the appropriate fire extinguisher ONLY if:
    • The fire is small in size (the size of a wastebasket) – Never fight a spreading fire,
    • You are trained and feel comfortable using the extinguisher; and
    • You are able to maintain a clear, unobstructed exit route from the location of the fire.
  • Report all fire incidents promptly to University Police at (412) 268-2323 or call 911

If you see that the fire cannot be quickly extinguished, ACTIVATE THE NEAREST FIRE ALARM PULL STATION AND EVACUATE THE BUILDING.

The Building’s Fire Alarm System

Fire alarm pull stations are activated by completely pulling down the lever located on the lower half of the alarm pull station cover. Pull stations are located within 5 feet of exits doors. Fire alarm activations may also be automatically initiated by actuation of smoke or heat detectors located throughout corridors, storage spaces, and mechanical areas or by the activation of sprinkler systems.

When activated, the fire alarm system causes alarm strobe lights to flash and a loud tone to sound.  The system may also broadcast digitized verbal evacuation instructions throughout the building.  Alarm signals are then transmitted simultaneously through a 24-hour monitoring station to the Pittsburgh Bureau of Fire and University Police. The point of activation or area affected within the building is indicated on an alarm control panel that is located near the main entry doors. 

Basic Evacuation Instructions

While on campus, you may need to evacuate from an Academic, Administration or Housing building at any given moment regardless of the time of day or weather condition.  Listed are key points to a safe and timely building evacuation. 

  • If you hear the fire alarm or are instructed to evacuate, remember ALL occupants must evacuate the building. NEVER ignore the alarm. 
  • Shut off any heat sources or equipment that you may be using, quickly gather your personal belongings (keys, purse, bag) and proceed to the nearest exit in an orderly fashion, but do not run.
  • Help those who may require assistance.
  • CMUSafe Ambassadors/Floor Marshals may be present to provide directions to the nearest exit.
  • For more information on the CMUSafe Ambassadors/Floor Marshals Program: 
  • When leaving a room or corridor, close the doors as you leave. Never prop open or disable fire doors. 
  • It is best to know and practice at least two ways out of the building.
  • Once you exit the building, move to a designated meeting area 150 feet or further away from the building to provide clear access to responding emergency personnel.
  • In times of inclement weather, seek shelter in other near-by, unaffected facilities, but do not block the exits inside the other buildings.   
  • During times of Pandemic related to the Coronavirus (COVID-19);
  • Always use the nearest exit. 
  • Remember to practice physical distancing by maintaining at least six feet apart or as best as reasonably possible.
  • Wear facial coverings as required.
  • Washing hands after the emergency or use of hand sanitizer stations.
  • For more information on health and wellness at CMU, please visit the coronavirus website: 
  • Once evacuated from the building do not re-enter until given the all clear to return inside by emergency responders, CMUSafe Ambassadors/Floor Marshals or authorized personnel.  Just because the alarm is silenced or you no longer hear a sounding alarm it does not mean that it is safe to re-enter the building.

Need for Assistance – Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) 

People with disabilities are not required to disclose that information. During a fire alarm or emergency, if you are able to self-evacuate with or without assistance, do so. The CMUSafe Ambassadors/Floor Marshal can be notified if a student, faculty, staff or visitor in their area does self-identify and request assistance during an emergency.  It is best to have arrangements pre-planned for evacuation assistance. Those arrangements can be made to reasonably assure that assistance is provided to anyone who requests it. Contact CMU’s Human Resources Equal Opportunity Services to self-identify at or ERM (DR/BC) at for more information.

For any ADA assistance in the event of a fire alarm or emergency in the building and you are not able to self-evacuate:

  • Please shelter-in-place if safe to do so; or
    • Go to a designated area of refuge inside the building or an enclosed stairwell.
    • Call University Police at 412-268-2323 or 911 and tell them your location.
    • You can also ask someone exiting the building to notify the emergency responders (Police or Fire) or a CMU Safe Ambassador/Floor Marshal outside the building of your location and need for assistance.
    • It is recommended to carry with you a cell phone, whistle and a flashlight to help signal or make noise to get attention for help.

Fire Extinguisher Use

Some basic knowledge regarding the safe and appropriate use of fire extinguishers is essential.  Fire extinguishers are designed to fight only small fires (the size of a wastebasket) and must be used correctly. Remember to never fight a spreading fire. No attempts should be made to extinguish any fire physically larger than you. 


Fire extinguishers are designed to be easily operated by those who are properly trained and when used properly can quickly extinguish small fires safely.

The technique to remember for using a fire extinguisher is P.A.S.S.

PULL the pin. Pull out the locking pin that prevents the extinguisher from accidently discharging. Twist the pin as you pull to help break the plastic seal that holds the pin in place.

AIM the extinguisher nozzle at the base of the fire.

SQUEEZE the handle grips to release the extinguishing agent.

SWEEP the extinguisher slowly and evenly across the BASE of the fire. Continue to apply the extinguishing agent until the fire is out or the extinguisher empties.

Extinguisher Precautions

  • Life safety is more important than fighting a fire. When in doubt, EVACUATE!
  • Before using an extinguisher, make sure you have the right type of extinguisher to extinguish the fire. Using the wrong extinguisher can make the situation worse (i.e. using a water extinguisher on an electrical or grease fire).
  • Ensure that the fire does not cut off your exit path.
  • NEVER turn your back to the fire, even if you believe it to be completely extinguished.
  • You must still activate the fire alarm and evacuate the building, closing doors behind you.
  • Extinguished or not, you must report all fire incidents by calling University Police at (412) 2682323 or call 911.


For additional questions or concerns please contact EHS: