Emergency Management @UBC: What to do when the fire alarm sounds

Sometimes they ring, sometimes they beep, or even flash… What does it mean when the fire alarms go off? What is the emergency response to a fire alarm? What are you supposed to do?

Let’s get the common sense stuff out of the way first.

What to do if you see a fire

  • Activate the fire alarm. Don’t worry, it’s not the movies, the sprinklers will only go off if there is significant heat right underneath them.
  • Call 911 and report location of fire and any information you may have.
  • Use a fire extinguisher on small fires (wastebasket-sized) only if it is safe to do so. Use the correct fire extinguisher.
  • Otherwise, alert others and move everyone away from the area of the fire, closing doors behind you.

UBC’s Fire Life Safety Systems (FLS) are interconnected to a central alarm system. When someone pulls the alarm or an automatic detector goes off it connects to the main FLS control system, which is monitored 24/7 and mobilizes Emergency Responders from Vancouver Fire and Rescue Service (VFRS) as well as local support from Building Operations and Risk Management Services.

When you hear an alarm:

  • Treat it as a real emergency.
  • Use the stairway and proceed to the ground floor. Never use elevators if fire is suspected.
  • Once outside, proceed to the assembly area so that a head count can be taken. Part of doing your annual fire drill is to find your assembly area before an actual fire occurs.
  • Don’t go back in until the all clear has been announced by emergency personnel.

What can you do to be prepared for a fire?

Everyone should review their building’s wall-mounted “Emergency Procedure” key plans. These building maps are in every building at every entrance/exit and they outline the location of pull stations, fire extinguishers, exit routes, and pre-designated meeting areas outside the building.

Each building has a Building Emergency Response Plan (also known as a BERP) that outlines the roles and responsibilities, and requirements for Emergency Directors and Floor Wardens on every floor. The BERP is reviewed annually by the Joint Occupational Health and Safety Committee (JOHSC) and Local Safety Teams (LSTs). The Emergency Director for the building is responsible for recruiting the Floor Wardens, coordinating the annual update of the BERP, and executing the annual fire drill.

While you’re testing your preparedness, the FLS system also undergoes regular scheduled maintenance, including a monthly test of every building’s alarm response as well as an annual test of every device in every building.

For more information on emergency procedures, including fire, please visit the Emergency Procedures section of the Risk Management Service website.