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Health and Safety Services

Fire Safety Awareness at Birkbeck

  1. General –
    The Fire Brigade and Governors require all staff to receive information/ training in fire safety. The Safety Officer therefore distributes fire safety awareness information, arranges fire drills and delivers fire awareness sessions if requested by schools and departments.
    Fires have started in Birkbeck due to smoking, electrical faults, machinery burning out and arson.  To date they have been detected and dealt with quickly and have therefore all been reasonably small.  However serious fires      have occurred in recent years at several UK universities and we cannot guarantee that one will never happen here - though we work continuously to avoid it!

  2. Speed of Fires - Unchecked fires travel rapidly.  Do not delay when you hear the alarm.  Leave the building immediately.

  3. Fire/Smoke Doors – All staircases and corridors are protected by doors (often these are office doors) to prevent the spread of smoke.  Do not obstruct or  wedge them open or allow others to do so.  Report broken doors to the Safety Office.

  4. Escape Routes – Explore the buildings get to know all the different escape routes available to you and how to operate the various types of door locks found at the final exits.  In the event of a fire you may need to know more than one.

  5. Blocked Escape Routes – All exit routes (exit doors, stairways and corridors) should be kept free of obstructions such as rubbish and furniture.  Do not dump such items in corridors or condone others doing so.  Report obstructions to Estates (ext. 2001) or email the Safety Office.

  6. Fire Instructions – These are posted in corridors and on staircase landings near fire alarm ‘call points’.  Read them.  Basically, if you find a fire, set off the alarm and leave the building.  Don’t tackle the fire unless you have been trained and are confident in the use of fire extinguishers.

  7. 999/555 – The Duty Attendant at the Malet Street building will ring 999 immediately he/she hears the alarm or has been alerted by the 555 system that an alarm has sounded in another building (‘autodiallers’ ring 555 when the alarm sounds in other buildings).  In non-Birkbeck buildings, occupants should study and follow the arrangements in place there.

  8. Check lists –  There is no checklist system, as we never know who all the people in the buildings are at any time.  The situation is similar to that in a department store.

  9. Assembly Points – There are no formal assembly points for the various buildings.  The general instruction is to move well away (100 metres at least) from the buildings to let others out and the Fire Brigade in - and don’t stand in the road.

  10. Evacuation of the Disabled – Blind and deaf persons will soon become aware of what is happening and make suitable arrangements to evacuate the building safely.  Difficulties can arise with wheelchair users, people on crutches, the frail and/or elderly, heavily pregnant women or any other person whose restricted mobility may unduly delay the evacuation of others down staircases.  In a panic situation they might actually be swept aside by the more able bodied. Accordingly, such persons should be evacuated horizontally to a place of relative safety i.e. a staircase landing and wait there with a companion (preferably a member of staff) while a message is carried to the Duty Attendant by another colleage/friend to inform him/her of their location.  If necessary, the Duty Attendant will arrange for their evacuation by trained College staff or the Fire Brigade. Otherwise, a message will be returned to say the situation is under control and they will not have to evacuate. While waiting, if the staircase clears then those persons whose disability allows them to make downward progress may start to descend at their own pace. All persons with a disability that may delay their recognition of or response to the fire alarm should be referred to the Birkbeck Safety Officer to discuss a PEEP (Personal Emergency Evacuation Plan).

  11. Fire Marshalling – Because of the unusual pattern of usage of our buildings by the various staff groups, students and numerous other users all staff are expected to lend their assistance when the fire alarm sounds.  During the day, staff must give a lead by leaving their areas promptly and encouraging others to do so.  Once outside, staff should assist with crowd control by moving evacuees well away from the exit doors, instructing them to keep off the roads and not allowing anyone to re-enter a building until a verbal all-clear is given - not merely the cessation of the alarm. . In the evening it is essential that all lecturing staff lead their students out of classes promptly and  take them well away from the buildings and do not allow them to re-enter until the verbal all clear is given.  Staff who are not in charge of students are expected to assist with crowd control by moving evacuees well away from the exit doors, instructing them to keep off the roads and not allowing anyone to re-enter a building until a verbal all-clear is given.

  12. Fire Information –  All hirers of Birkbeck rooms are provided with fire information and instructed to convey this to their delegates. All new students should be informed of the fire arrangements as part of their induction to Birkbeck.  Fire safety information for distribution to students and visitors is available from the Health and Safety Services in bookmark form.

  13. Any Questions? - See 'Frequently Asked Fire Questions' at:    or email the Health and Safety Services at

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Health & Safety Services, Birkbeck, University of London, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HX. Tel: 020 7631 6218, email: