Fire Safety


Fire safety is of the utmost importance in any living environment, and every member of the Columbia Housing community is responsible for ensuring that safety is maintained at all times. Fire safety infractions are severe violations of University regulations and are punishable by permanent expulsion from University housing as well as subject to criminal prosecution.

For questions regarding fire safety policies or procedures, please contact Fire Safety.

Evacuation During Fire Alarm

Residents are required to evacuate the premises during any fire alarm or fire drill in a reasonable amount of time.

Fire Safety Equipment Checks

Once per year, Housing, Residential Life and Fire Safety conduct Health and Safety Inspections in student rooms to ensure that fire safety equipment is in place and in working condition. In addition, random room checks to inspect fire safety equipment may be conducted during any fire drill.


It is extremely dangerous and a violation of both fire codes and University policy to obstruct entrance to or egress from any room, suite, elevator landing, common area, or lounge. This includes, but is not limited to, basement and stairwell landings in all residence halls and brownstones. Any items left in these areas may be removed by Facilities and Operations or Columbia Housing staff at the owner’s expense. Any fines by FDNY related to obstruction will be the resident’s responsibility.

Purposefully Starting Fires or Triggering Fire Alarms

False alarms waste time and resources and endanger the lives of firefighters and people needing their assistance. Sounding false alarms, starting open fires, arson, and tampering with fire safety equipment are criminal offenses. If an alarm results in a fine by the Fire Department, the smallest definable group of responsible residents will be billed for the fine.

Tampering with Fire Safety Equipment

In accordance with New York State Law, residents are prohibited from tampering with or engaging in the improper use of fire fighting, detection, and/or alarm equipment. The removal of or tampering with smoke detectors is prohibited.

Furthermore, residents may not hang or attach decorations to fire fighting, detection, or alarm equipment, as outlined in the Decorations and Wall Hangings policy.

Fire Safety Plans

All residents are required to review, and certify that they have reviewed, the fire safety plan information about each of the residence halls and brownstones prior to Check-In. This fire safety plan contains important fire safety information and evacuation procedures. A summary of these evacuation procedures is also posted on the back of residents’ room doors. To maximize personal fire safety, residents should familiarize themselves with these materials. Fire Safety Plans for each residence hall are available in the sidebar of the building's summary page in the Explore Our Residences section of this site, or you may request a copy of these plans by emailing Housing. If new fire safety signage for the door is needed, you may also email Housing.

Fire Alarms

Fire detection, suppression, and notification equipment is located in the residence halls for residents’ protection. Activation of an alarm will automatically cause a response by the New York City Fire Department.

  • Fire Alarms: Fire alarms are tested at various times during the year. Notifications will be made prior to testing. Evacuation is not necessary during a fire alarm test. Unless notified, all fire alarms should be considered authentic fire alerts requiring immediate evacuation. During such an alarm, everyone must leave the building in a quick and orderly manner. If a resident discovers a fire, they should pull the nearest fire alarm and, once they have left the area, call the campus Emergency Number at (212) 854-5555.
  • Safety Checks: After fire alarms or during a planned fire drill, a random number of rooms/suites may be inspected for compliance with University fire safety regulations. Scheduled checks will also be conducted once a year in all rooms by Housing, Residential Life, and Fire Safety personnel during which University staff will look for visible fire hazards and confirm that fire safety equipment is functional.
  • Sprinkler Systems: All sprinklers are inspected and maintained per NYC Fire Code and NFPA 25. For information on the latest inspections, please contact the Office of Fire and Life Safety Office at (212) 854-8518 or by email.

Fire Safety Guidelines

Residents should learn the location of several fire pull boxes and at least two fire exits within their building. In addition, residents should always keep fire doors closed and report any damaged or missing fire safety equipment. Suite doors should remain closed at all times.

Due to the potential risks and hazards associated with their use, certain appliances and decorations may not be used in student rooms. In addition, certain other appliances may only be used in designated cooking areas or kitchens.

Students may not possess items that operate with an open flame (i.e. grills, lanterns, candles, or incense), or flammable materials such as gasoline, kerosene, or propane. Please review the list of Prohibited Items for more information.

Fire Safety Tips

  • Do not overload electrical outlets at any time. Only one appliance should be plugged into each socket in the outlet.
  • Do not use extension cords, only surge protectors. Never piggyback (connect) multiple surge protectors together. Never use multiple extension cords.
  • Do not operate two or more high-amperage appliances simultaneously (i.e. a computer and a hair dryer).
  • Do use a surge suppressor to protect computers and other sensitive electronic equipment.
  • Do not leave stoves or other cooking appliances unattended.

Residents with Disabilities

Residents with disabilities or residents with chronic medical, health, or psychological conditions, whose illnesses or disabilities may interfere with their ability to evacuate, are encouraged to alert Disability Services. They will alert Columbia’s offices of Public Safety, Fire Safety, Residential Life, Housing, and the local Fire Department of New York (FDNY) that a resident needs assistance evacuating. Residents with disabilities with special evacuation needs are advised to contact the Office of Fire and Life Safety at (212) 854-8518 or by email for individual emergency preparedness and planning consultation.

Residents without Disabilities

In the event of a fire alarm:

  • When the alarm sounds, residents must evacuate the building.
  • Awaken any sleeping roommate or suitemates.
  • Check the door with the back of your hand; if the door is hot to the touch, do not open.
  • Carefully and slowly open the door. If heat or smoke rushes in, close the door immediately and remain inside.
  • When residents leave their room, they should be sure to take their key and University ID card in case it is necessary to return to the room should conditions in the corridor deteriorate.

If for any reason a resident is not able to leave their room, they should dial the campus Emergency Number at (212) 854-5555 and inform Public Safety of their location. Help will be sent immediately.

If exit is possible:

  • Make sure to close the door tightly when evacuating.
  • Follow a predetermined exit route in a quick and orderly manner.
  • Leave the building using the nearest accessible stairway. Do not use the elevator.
  • When exiting in smoky conditions, keep at least one hand on the wall, stay low to the ground and if necessary crawl to the nearest exit.
  • After exiting the building, please keep clear of the building entry to allow quick access by FDNY, Fire Safety, and Public Safety personnel.
  • When the building has been deemed safe for reentry, Public Safety will authorize residents to go back inside.

If exit is not possible:

  • Make sure the door is tightly closed and use a bed sheet or blanket to fill the cracks around the door.
  • Open the window two-thirds at the top to allow hot air and gases to escape—and one-third at the bottom. Keep face near the bottom opening. This will ease breathing until help arrives. Never break the window. This will result in an inability to control the influx of smoke from other floors.
  • Wave a towel or brightly colored shirt from the window to aid rescuers. The Fire Department will look for this sign.

Watch these videos on Fire Safety and Cooking Safety to make sure you have the basics covered.