Fire safety

The consequences of a fire at our University could potentially be very serious. For this reason we have high standards of fire protection in our buildings. However, for them to be effective, we all need to be vigilant and follow our fire safety procedures.

The University Fire Safety Policy explains the responsibilities we all have for fire safety at the University. It's important that all staff understand their responsibilities and what they need to do to meet them. Those with management responsibilities and staff who have a specific fire safety role should refer to:

Please make sure that you know:

Fire safety procedures

Fire safety arrangements

All University property has been assessed under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order and conforms to the stipulations of the Building Regulations.

Fire hazards

Fire hazards are the potential sources of ignition and are controlled as far as is reasonably practicable.

  • All electrical systems are regularly tested. Our Electrical Safety StandardElectrical Safety StandardElectrical Safety Standard sets out our arrangements for ensuring the electrical safety of portable electrical equipment. It includes our requirements for Portable Appliance Testing.
  • Smoking is not permitted inside University buildings. The University's no smoking policy covers all campus buildings. The use of smoking materials (including e-cigarettes) is strictly prohibited in all buildings and is to be kept at a distance of five meters from buildings. The University no smoking policy includes all parts of student residences.
  • Fixed heating systems are in place and privately-owned heaters are not permitted.
  • Arson is a common cause of fire. To combat it, all staff and students should be mindful of security and report any suspicious activity or perceived fire safety weaknesses to Security. Items left external to buildings are often a target for arson and consequently waste and similarly combustible material are to be kept at least five metres away from the building. In certain circumstances and only when approved by the Workplace Health Safety and Wellbeing team items in a secure fire proof surrounding can be stored less than five meters from a building.

Fire prevention

The number one priority for fire safety at the University is the prevention of fires. This is achieved in a number of ways, with all staff required to assist in helping with adherence. It is the legal and moral responsibility of all employees to co-operate in order to help reduce the likelihood of a fire.

Measures include but are not exhaustive to:

  • Corridors, stairways, landings and escape routes must be kept clear at all times of anything that is likely to cause a fire or accident or to impede evacuation in an emergency  
  • Hazardous materials must be stored, used and disposed of in accordance with all legal requirements and safe working practices
  • Combustible items such as cardboard and paper are to be kept away from sources of ignition such as electrical items or heaters 
  • All firefighting equipment must be kept free from obstruction and be readily available for use in an emergency. Portable firefighting equipment must not be removed or repositioned without authority from the Estates and Campus Services (Maintenance, Capital and Development team) or the Workplace Health Safety and Wellbeing team 
  • Any obvious or suspected damage to, or misuse of, a fire alarm or firefighting equipment must be reported immediately to the Estates Help Desk using the online fault reporting system 
  • Taking action up to and including disciplinary and legal for any person found to be causing damage to or deliberate and wilful misuse of any item provided for fire safety

Firefighting equipment

Portable firefighting equipment (i.e. fire extinguishers and blankets) are provided across the University’s buildings as deemed necessary.  Extinguishers must only be used by those competent to do so via training and experience. Interference with firefighting equipment is a serious offence and could lead to disciplinary action.


Training in fire awareness is provided to all staff; information and training are available to students. This is augmented with additional training for security staff, managers, students, and fire marshals. See training information:

  • Induction training for new staff members (How we work at Essex) 
  • Fire Safety training for students
  • To book onto a Fire Marshal course; link to HR Organiser

Fire Evacuation policy

The fire evacuation policy is designed to ensure, so far as reasonably practicable, the rapid and safe evacuation of University premises in the event of an emergency. All staff, students, contractors and visitors are required to comply.

In the event of hearing the alarms, whether it is suspected to be a practice evacuation or not, the University evacuation procedures must be followed.  Failure to co-operate in an evacuation could lead to staff or student disciplinary procedures.

In most circumstances Campus Security will take charge in an emergency evacuation situation.

Evacuation of persons who may have difficulty

The vast majority of areas of our buildings are safe for those who may have difficulty however additional arrangements may be required and will be arranged.

Staff and students or relevant managers / tutors must make the Workplace Health, Safety and Wellbeing team aware if a Personal Emergency Evacuation Plan Personal Emergency Evacuation Plan Personal Emergency Evacuation Plan (PEEP) is required.

Staff or students who have visitors who may have difficulty are required to notify Workplace Health, Safety and Wellbeing a Security, Accommodation Essex, Event Essex, Communications and External Relations or Wivenhoe House Hotel staff as appropriate before or on their arrival on campus. People being visited will be required to take responsibility for providing assistance; this may be devolved to other persons willing to assist.

Those notified will provide advice, make reasonable arrangements and record the information.

Wheelchair users and others who cannot manage stairs

Some lifts are specially adapted to remain safe for use in a fire; where these are available they are the best option. Specialist equipment (evacuation chairs etc) with trained operators are provided where necessary.

Some buildings are alarmed in zones. If evacuation to an outside area is not possible for any reason; evacuation into another area possible when passing a red flashing beacon, evacuees must not re-enter until the beacon stops flashing.

As a last resort, request assistance from a colleague or other person to assist you into a designated refuge area or the part of the corridor closest to the staircase. (Unless you are threatened by the fire or other emergency you should not enter a staircase enclosure).

Use the communication system provided or ask the person assisting you to inform the Security/ Hotel staff or call the relevant Security emergency telephone number. They will inform you as to what action to take and will arrange assistance if required.

Should you be threatened by fire, you should move onto the staircase enclosure but remain on the landing. All staircases are protected and you would normally be safe to remain on the landing until assistance arrives. Specialist evacuation chairs are provided on some staircases, the University may need to provide training for any carers in its use and would like to familiarise you with it.

Persons who can manage stairs with difficulty

Follow the advice above or make your way to a staircase. Your limited mobility could cause an accident to either yourself or others, do not attempt to descend until the main body of other people has passed.

Visual impairment

Exit routes should be well lit, doorways etc. are obvious and signage should be large enough to read. If you may have difficulties finding your way out you should ensure you familiarise yourself with all potential escape routes or be accompanied at all times.

Difficulty reading

If you cannot read the information provided, particularly the emergency instruction notices, it should be read to you or provided in a larger format.

Hearing impairment

If you may not hear the fire alarm you must request that specialist equipment is provided or ensure that someone will notify you immediately. The University provides flashing beacons to assist you in some areas and has specialist equipment available for residents and sleeping guests.

Weakness or limited dexterity

If you find it difficult to open doors special adaptations may need to be made, or it may be necessary to be accompanied.

Mental health

These range from severe learning difficulties to occasional panic attacks. Potential solutions generally require personal support or supervision. This will be covered in the Personal Emergency Evacuation Plan Personal Emergency Evacuation Plan Personal Emergency Evacuation Plan 

Fire risk assessments

Fire risk assessments are undertaken at suitable intervals and they set the standards for fire safety and the measures necessary to reduce the risk as far as reasonably practicable. Fire risk assessments at the University are only undertaken by competent persons as required by the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. 

Fire risk assessments are constantly monitored to assess how effectively the risk is being controlled. The assessments are reviewed when there is any reason to suspect that they are no longer valid or there has been a significant change in an area of a campus that has affected our fire precautions. Assessment review dates will be no longer than three years apart.

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Contact us
Fire Safety Officers
Telephone: 01206 874847