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Fire Safety and Procedures

Virginia Tech is required to comply with the Virginia Statewide Fire Prevention Code.

Virginia Tech has policies relating to misuse of fire equipment, arson, disregard of fire alarm signals, and tampering with fire alarm and smoke detection equipment. Compliance with the directives of emergency personnel, Division of Student Affairs personnel, and the fire marshal is required. Students are responsible for familiarizing themselves with the material on the web pages here as well as policies found in the Student Code of Conduct.

Tampering with Fire Safety Equipment

Tampering with or misuse of fire safety equipment is prohibited. Fire safety equipment includes smoke detectors, alarm sounders, alarm covers, alarm pull stations, sprinkler systems, and extinguishers. Anyone found causing an intentional fire alarm, tampering with fire safety equipment, or not properly evacuating during a fire alarm will face arrest and/or serious university action. Termination of the housing contract and suspension from the university are the minimum sanctions for tampering with fire safety equipment (including sprinklers) or causing a false alarm.

Fire and Emergency Evacuation Drills

Each occupied hall schedules four fire drills per year, usually in the first 10 days of the semester, to provide practice for a real evacuation emergency. Residents will receive notification of the general time of the alarm, and university staff will enter 10 percent of student rooms to verify that alarms are working properly and that residents have evacuated. Failing to evacuate during any fire alarm, real or drill, will result in a conduct referral and may result in probation or a more serious disciplinary sanction.

Fire Safety Room Inspections

The Virginia State Fire Marshal's office inspects the common and mechanical areas of each residence hall annually, and 20 percent of student rooms are randomly selected for inspection. The inspection focuses on proper use of electrical cords, compliance with the decorations regulation, smoke detector testing, and damaged sprinkler heads.

Evacuation Routes

Means of egress in the residence halls include hallways, stairwells, and doors over which an exit sign is placed. Emergency evacuation route signs have been placed in the residence halls to direct residents to exits in case of an emergency. Obstructing these means of egress is not permitted. Bicycles, trash, furniture, boxes, or other items may not be placed in hallways or stairwells at any time.

Virginia Statewide Fire Prevention Code states:

  • Section F-604.1
    "The means of egress from each part of the structure, including exits, stairways, egress doors, and any panic hardware installed thereon, aisles, corridors, passageways, and similar elements of the means of egress, shall at all times be maintained in a safe condition and available for immediate utilization and free of all obstructions."
  • Section F-606.1
    "An exit shall not be utilized for any purpose that interferes with its function as a means of egress."

Room Decoration/Contents

We encourage students to make their rooms comfortable and to personalize their home away from home; however, to protect the resident and the community, there are a number of regulations to be followed. Several of these policies and procedures are listed below.


Electric stoves, George Foreman-type grills, halogen lamps, toaster ovens, toasters, air conditioners, space heaters, hot plates, and other open-coiled appliances are not permitted in residence hall rooms. Each room may have one small microwave and the provided refrigerator; outside refrigerators are not allowed. Small appliances with fully enclosed heating elements that are UL approved, such as coffee makers, irons, and small microwaves (1,000 watts or less) are permitted.

Curtains and Hangings

In student rooms, no materials of any kind may be hung from ceilings. Approximately 10 percent of the total wall surfaces in a room may be covered with combustible decorative materials. There is no limit on decorative materials that are flame resistant. Proof of flame resistance may be requested during a fire inspection.

Curtains, draperies, wall hangings, blankets, banners, and other decorative materials suspended from walls, closets, or other vertical surfaces must be flame resistant or noncombustible and factory labeled that they meet NFPA 701 (National Fire Protection Association). Virginia Statewide Fire Code does not permit any other combustible materials, such as posters, paper, or cardboard to be on or hung around windows unless they are fire resistant. See also Wall Decorations below.


Combustible materials such as paper or plastics may not be placed on the surface of doors facing hallways, stairwells, or other exits (resident room doors, bathroom doors, stairwell doors, exterior doors, etc.).

A single memo or message board not exceeding 200 square inches may be placed on the outside of a resident room door. Resident names may be posted on a single paper next to the door on the masonry wall but not on the door frame. Room numbers may not be covered, and the nametag or sign may not exceed 200 square inches for both residents combined.

No other combustible materials may be posted by residents on hallway walls, exit doors, or in stairwells. Flyers and other combustible materials may only be posted on general purpose bulletin boards, hall council and staff bulletin boards, and authorized posting areas for residence hall staff.

Electrical Cords and Multi-Plug Strips

Alterations of any kind to the electrical system are prohibited. Power outlet strips must be UL listed, have a maximum ampere rating of 15, and have an integral circuit breaker or fuse (a reset switch or button). Power outlet strips may be the corded type or plugged directly into an outlet as long as they have an integral circuit breaker or fuse. Each power strip or multi-plug device must be plugged directly into a wall outlet (no extension cords), and only two per student are permitted.

Flammable Items

Flammable items such as fuel (propane, lamp oil, solvents, gasoline, etc) may not be stored or used in any area of the residence hall. Items that require an open flame, operate on fuel, or produce heat (such as Bunsen burners, lit candles, incense, and alcohol burners) are prohibited. Candles, incense, and other items producing an open flame may not be burned in the residence halls except as part of a regulated religious ceremony approved in advance by Environmental Health and Safety Services by securing an Open Burn Permit.


Only "cool" mini-lights are authorized for use in student rooms and must be strung together according to manufacturer's recommendation (usually 2-3 strings). Lights must be hung so they cannot contact combustible material, and the first or "lead" string must be plugged directly into the wall or university-approved power strip with overcurrent/breaker protection (see Electrical Cords and Multi-Plug Strips above). The lights may be on only when the room is occupied.

Halogen lamps of any type are not permitted in residence halls.


A ceiling clearance of 18 inches for sprinklered buildings and 24 inches for non-sprinklered buildings is required at all times. Posters, pictures, and other decorations must not be placed around side-mounted sprinkler heads or smoke detectors.

Wall Decorations

Only 10 percent of wall space may be covered with combustible decorative materials (posters, pictures, papers, textiles, etc.). No combustible decorative materials may be placed on a wall within 2 cinderblocks of the ceiling or 10 inches in buildings with drywall/stucco walls.

There is no limit to the amount of non-combustible materials permitted on a wall; however, situations deemed to be unsafe may require removal at the discretion of the Housing Services and Residential Well-being staff. Proof of flame resistance may be requested during a fire inspection.

Flags and tapestries have to be hung flush on the wall. If the residents have bunk beds, flags can also be hung on the bedframe. They cannot be used for curtains.