Fire and Life Safety Systems

All of Tufts University buildings are protected by automatic fire detection devices and fire alarm systems.  Every residential housing building is protected by an automatic fire sprinkler system that, when activated, will control and contain the spread of the fire until the local career fire departments that provide fire protection services to the Medford/Somerville and Boston campuses arrive to extinguish the fire. The Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine’s fire service is provided by the Grafton Fire Department that is staffed by on-call fire fighters. A PDF version of the information below is available here.

Fire Alarm System

The Fire Alarm Systems on all three campuses are monitored and supervised 24-7 by the Tufts Police Communications Centers located on the Boston and Medford campuses. The systems are engineered, installed and supervised in accordance with applicable Massachusetts fire and building codes. The systems are maintained, inspected and tested annually in accordance with applicable code. Smoke detectors are ceiling mounted in each resident’s room, the common hallways, stairways and corridors. Horn/strobe warning devices are installed to alert occupants to a life threatening incident. Manual Fire Alarm Pull Stations are located at every exterior exit on all levels of the buildings. Bedroom smoke detectors (local device) are programmed to alert the occupants if the origin of the smoke is in that room only. The detection devices (system devices) in the common areas (i.e., kitchens, living rooms, hallways, stairways and basements) sprinkler head activation, or the activation of a manual fire alarm pull station will sound the building wide evacuation alarm and will also sound in all of the individual student rooms. Whenever a fire alarm activation is transmitted to the Communications Center, a Tufts Police patrol officer is immediately dispatched to the location and the local fire department is notified and responds. The patrol officer arrives within 2-3 minutes, followed by the local career fire department whose response time is usually 3-4 minutes. Upon arrival, the patrol officer determines the location of the alarm activation and proceeds to that location to verify the incident. When the fire department arrives, they assume command of the incident and investigate the reason for the activation. All of the university buildings are equipped with portable, multi-purpose, dry chemical fire extinguishers. Tufts patrol officers are trained to operate the fire extinguishers. If the fire is small enough to be controlled or extinguished by its use, the officer will attempt to extinguish the fire.

Fire Sprinkler System

The fire sprinkler systems on all three campuses are monitored and supervised continuously by the Tufts University Communications Center located on the Boston and Medford campuses. The systems are engineered, installed and supervised in accordance with applicable Massachusetts codes.

97% of all fires in fully sprinklered buildings are controlled by two sprinkler heads or less. When the temperature reaches 155° at the sprinkler head, the fusible link releases and water flows to control and contain the spread of the fire. Only that sprinkler head flows water, subsequent heads will flow water only when the temperature releases the fusible link.

Carbon Monoxide Detection

In accordance with the applicable Massachusetts code, all university residential buildings that contain fossil fuel burning equipment or have enclosed parking are equipped with Carbon Monoxide Alarm protection. The detection devices are wall mounted within ten (10) feet outside of any bedroom on each level of the dwelling unit. When the device has detected abnormal parts per million of carbon monoxide (CO), it sounds a local warning and sends a signal to the Tufts University Communications Center who will dispatch emergency services resources appropriate to the conditions.

Fire Doors

Fire barriers play an integral role in managing a fire by preventing the spread of smoke, toxic gases, and fire itself from one area to another. Fire doors are fundamental to the integrity of fire barriers, because any time there is an open doorway to a compartment, a fire barrier is temporarily broken. To prevent breaks in fire protection, fire doors must be self-closing and be equipped with proper latching devices in order to provide as much resistance as possible to the spread of fire, smoke and toxic gases. Fire exit doors are often held open for the convenience of employees and visitors, creating a significant fire hazard for all building occupants due to the break created in the fire barrier. Doors that are designed to be fire exit doors can be held open, but only if they automatically release when the building fire alarms are activated. Fire doors may only be held open by a device that automatically releases when the fire alarm is activated (such as an electromagnetic hold-open device).

When fire doors are needed:

  • Where a door has an ‘EXIT’ sign on or around it
  • Where a door leads to exit stairwells and horizontal exits
  • Where a door leads to a hazardous area such as flammable storage
  • Where a door leads to a hallway or from one fully-enclosed room to another

Hazards to avoid with fire doors:

  • Fire doors should never be tied open or held open by devices such as door wedges or blocks
  • When closed, fire doors should never have their latched taped over. During a fire, hot gases can easily build up enough pressure to cause fire doors to blow open.
 Portable Fire Extinguishers

The majority of portable fire extinguishers located throughout every University building consists of multi-purpose, dry chemical extinguishers that will be effective on any type of fire you may encounter:

  • Ordinary combustibles, such as paper, cardboard, cloth and wood
  • Energized electrical equipment
  • Flammable liquids (except for flammable metals)

If you discover a fire, you must immediately set off the building fire alarm system by activating a manual fire alarm pull station to warn building occupants. This will also initiate the response of the Tufts Police and the local fire department.

Only attempt to extinguish the fire if it is very small, not more than 2 feet high. Keep your escape route behind you. Should you decide to try to extinguish the fire, use the following acronym to help you:

P. A. S. S.

Pull safety pin from handle.

Aim at base of fire.

Squeeze the trigger handle.

Sweep from side to side.

If you decide not to fight the fire, try to close the door to the fire area, if it is safe to do so. This will help to prevent heat, smoke and toxic gases from entering the egress corridors. Then evacuate the building via the closest exit.

A periodic check of the extinguishers should be performed to ensure:

  • The extinguisher is not being used inappropriately, (for example, to prop a door open)
  • The extinguisher pressure gauge needle is in the green zone
  • There are no visible indications that the extinguisher has been damaged, discharged, or removed from its proper location
  • That the inspection tag is attached to the fire extinguisher. The inspection tag must be stamped with a month and year indicating the extinguisher was inspected within the past twelve months.

If an extinguisher needs to be replaced, submit a Work Order to Facilities.