Fire Safety in Residence Halls

It is a violation of the honor code to refuse to leave during a fire drill, to partake in negligent behavior leading to a fire, or to engage in hazardous behavior such as possessing and/or using candles and incense or obstructing the sprinkler system. Students must assume responsibility for the behavior of their guests in residence halls and can be fined and held responsible for guests’ violations of these policies. In most cases a first offense will result in an incident report with a sanction of viewing a fire safety video and community service hours with Facilities Management. A second offense will be referred to the Honor Code Council.

For a list of approved and prohibited items, please refer to the campus packing list.

Fire safety regulations and protocols

The most frequent causes of residence hall fires on our campus have been candles and incense. Candles, oil lamps, incense, alcohol lamps, and open flame burners are prohibited. The policy also prohibits listed items for decorative purposes (i.e. unlit candles are not allowed.)

State fire regulations require that all paths of exit, including corridors and stairwells, be kept free of obstructions. Bicycles, boots, shoes, boxes, trash, suitcases, clothes, beds, and furniture should never be left in corridors or stairwells. Any item left in the corridors or stairwells will be confiscated and may be thrown away. Students are financially responsible for any missing room furniture, including furniture confiscated from corridors.

All electrical equipment is subject to inspection throughout the year by the College electrician as part of Mount Holyoke's continuing fire safety program. For example, before an electrician will reset a breaker or replace a fuse, they must first determine the cause of the electric overload and therefore must check all rooms on the involved circuit for problems. All types of halogen lamps are prohibited. Extension cords may be used, but they must be UL-approved. Multi-outlet extension cords are also allowed as long as they are UL-approved and have independent fuse protection. Extension cords should not be run under rugs, in travel ways, or under furniture. Do not tack extension cords to baseboards or other areas of the room. The storage and use of the following electrical appliances in student rooms are prohibited.

  • open heating coils
  • refrigerators measuring over 3.1 cubit feet
  • outside radio and television antennas
  • space heaters
  • heat generating humidifiers or vaporizers
  • toasters
  • toaster ovens
  • electric grills/griddles
  • electric blankets

While most appliances are prohibited, there are a few exceptions,  such as small blenders, coffee pots and electric kettles, rice cookers, and microwaves under 70 watts.  Due to the limited capacity of the electric circuits, students are encouraged limit electrical use. Appliances not in use must be turned off and/or disconnected.

Fire extinguishers are located on the main floor of each residence hall.  Extinguishers should be used for their intended purpose only and should not be removed from their assigned location. Extinguishers should be used only after the alarm has been pulled and the fire department has been notified. Only then should a person try to control a small fire, if they can do so safely. Report fires of any size by dialing 1-911.

Keep fire and smoke doors closed. These doors prevent the spread of smoke and fire, saving lives and minimizing damage to the building and personal property.

In order to keep the residence hall free of fire hazards, fire safety inspections are performed four times a year: at the beginning of each semester, in November, and over the summer. Residential Life staff will follow up on any fire safety violations that are discovered during these inspections.

Flyers and other wall postings makes the spread of fire much quicker and easier. To increase the safety within the residence halls, we ask students to post flyers and announcements in designated areas only. This is typically the cork board on the room door and a community events board on the main floor of the residence hall lobby. Flyers placed on walls, glass of fire doors, or on entry ways will be removed.

Any item with a gasoline engine is prohibited in residential buildings. Gas barbeque grills, charcoal, and lighter fluids are also prohibited items. Grilling on the campus grounds is prohibited. Student or groups wishing to host a barbeque should contact the catering services via Willits Hallowell Conference Center. They will review the cost.

State law prohibits the use of upholstered furniture in student rooms. Futons, waterbeds, lofts, bean-bag chairs, upholstered storage ottomans, and hanging chairs are prohibited in College provided housing. Decorations may not be hung from the ceiling or sprinkler pipes. All decorations throughout the building must be flame-resistant.

  • Only fireproof artificial trees may be used in College buildings. Massachusetts law prohibits natural trees and other natural decorations.
  • If a holiday tree is set up in a residence hall, decorations must be made of flameproof or fireproof glass or metal. Items must be labeled as fireproof, not assumed to be fireproof. Only UL-approved lighting sets may be used to decorate a tree.
  • Balloons (filled with non-flammable gas)
  • Aluminum foil and other metal decorations
  • Posters made of heavy cardboard or paper that has been treated with flame-resistant solution (Check label for this information.)
  • Window decorations must be limited to the glass area and must remain completely inside the room. Only watercolor paints may be used. The steel or wooden frames of the windows are not to be painted or taped with any kind of tape. Windows must be cleaned at the end of the event or holiday season.
  • No decorations of any kind are allowed in corridors, stairwells, or any means of exit. Doors (except for bulletin boards on doors) may not be decorated with cards, ribbons, wrapping paper, or natural wreaths.
  • Nothing may be posted or hung on the outside of a window, whether affixed to the glass or affixed inside the room. This includes but is not limited to signs, window paints, flags, birdfeeders, etc.
  • No fires are to be lighted in the fireplace when the mantel is decorated. Fireplace mantel decorations should be kept to a minimum.
  • Cornstalks, hay, straw, and related items are prohibited.
  • Cut or live trees, wreaths, and sprays may not be used in the building. They may be used on the outside of exterior doors.
  • Items that may damage the interior paint or wallpaper of any building are prohibited.
  • Paper lanterns are prohibited.
  • Plastic film and coverings are prohibited.