Exit & Evacuation

Exit Systems

Exit is the portion of an egress system which is separated from other interior spaces of a building or structure by fire resistance rated construction. An exit provides a protected path of egress travel between the exit access and the exit discharge. A means of egress consist of three separate parts; exit access, the pathway leading to the exit, exit, and the exit discharge.

Corridor, defined in the IFC, is an enclosed exit access component that defines and provides a path of egress to an exit.

Pathways to exits must be kept clear at all times. Safe egress within a building is essential to life safety during an emergency. Evacuation routes are used to help direct people to the nearest way out of buildings.

Use of corridors to store combustible materials is prohibited. A required width of no less than 44 inches needs to be maintained at all times to keep a clear path of travel. Exterior exit discharges need to be kept free of snow and ice.

If you feel a means of egress component in your building is obstructed or unsafe please contact Fire & Life Safety. Someone from our office will further investigate the situation. If Fire & Life Safety determines there is a problem, we will follow up with the appropriate parties to resolve the safety concern.

Emergency Evacuation

Reasons for Conducting a Fire Drill

The primary reason for conducting fire drills is to educate the building occupants about the evacuation procedures to follow in the event of an emergency that requires evacuation. It is easy for building occupants to overlook features of a building in place to ensure their safety day-to-day. Most people will enter and leave buildings through the same entrance. Stairways and alternative exits might not be familiar to many occupants, even those who have worked in the same building for many years. In the event of an emergency, occupants might travel past emergency exits to get to the building entrance (exit) they are familiar with. Fire drills provide an opportunity for occupants to locate and use alternative routes under nonthreatening conditions. This familiarity increases the probability of a successful evacuation during an actual emergency. Fire drills are required by code. They are conducted to educate building occupants, assist in the evaluation of emergency plans, and identify potential issues with the building's means of egress.

Evacuation Procedures

  1. Isolate the fire by closing doors as you leave the building
  2. Activate the internal alarm systems. All personnel must be familiar with the sound of the fire alarm system and learn to recognize the evacuation signal. Install alarm system horns and strobe lights as necessary to ensure that all employees, customers, visitors, residents and patients can be alerted.
  3. Notify 911. Provide as much information as possible to the dispatcher. Be prepared to answer questions. Don’t hang-up until told to do so by the 911 Center. Not all alarm systems automatically relay the alarm to the 911 Center; your call may be their only notification.
  4. Evacuate the building. Do not waste time turning off equipment, collecting papers, or gathering personal property. Feel the doors to see if they are hot before opening them. If there is smoke present, crawl low because the air is fresher and cooler. No one should reenter the building after evacuation without fire department approval.

Emergency Evacuation Drill Frequency

  1. Upon completion, the evacuation plan must be practiced and evaluated. Any problems must be corrected and, if necessary, the plan revised to reflect any changes.
  2. Fire drills must be conducted at intervals specified in the table below or more frequently to familiarize occupants with the plan.
  3. Drills shall be held at unexpected times and under varying conditions to stimulate the unusual conditions that occur in case of a fire. 
  4. Records of the required emergency evacuation drills shall be maintained and include the following information. 
    • Identity of the person conducting the drill
    • Date and time of the drill 
    • Notification method used
    • Number of staff members participating 
    • Number of occupants evacuated 
    • Any special conditions simulated
    • Any problems encountered 
    • Weather conditions when occupants were evacuated
    • Time required to accomplish the complete evacuation
  5. Where a fire alarm system is provided, emergency evacuation drills shall be initiated by activating the fire alarm system. 
  6. Fire extinguishers should only be used by properly trained persons. Do not endanger employees by telling them to use fire extinguishers. It should be understood that extinguisher use is voluntary. The fire department should be notified in all cases of fire, even if the fire has been put out.
  7. Building personnel must never reset alarm panels without fire department approval.

Type of Occupancy Frequency of the Drills Participation

Assembly (A occupancy) – The use of a building or parts of a building for a gathering of people for civic, social or religious functions (athletic venues, large lecture halls, cafeterias).
Quarterly by Employees.

Business (B occupancy) – The use of a building or parts of a building for office, professional transactions, storage of records or accounts, research labs that are not considered hazardous occupancies and assembly areas of less than 50 people.
Annually by Employees.

Educational (E occupancy) – The use of a building or parts of a building for educational purposes through the 12th grade or a daycare more than 5 children older than 2.5 hears of age.
Monthly by all Occupants

Factory (F occupancy) – The use of a building or parts of a building for assembling, fabricating, finishing, manufacturing, repair operations, etc.
Annually by Employees

Residential (R-1 occupancy) – The use of a building or parts of a building for sleeping for occupants that are primarily transient in nature (hotels and motels).
Quarterly on each shift by Employees

Residential (R-2 occupancy) – The use of a building or parts of a building for containing sleeping units where occupancy is permanent in nature (dorms).
Four Annually by all Occupants

High rise buildings – Buildings that exceed 75 feet in height.
Annually by Employees

Emergency Procedures

Evacuation Plan Image

All campus buildings have building-specific evacuation route maps posted on each floor that show the location of exits, egress routes, fire extinguishers, fire alarm pull stations, Areas of Rescue Assistance, accessible exits, and in-place tornado shelter areas. Take time to locate and review the evacuation route maps in the building(s) where you work. Any questions concerning your evacuation maps please contact EH&S (265-5000).

Occupant Emergency Plans (OEP)

Each building at UW-Madison is required to have a completed Occupant Emergency Plan (OEP). The OEP is an all-hazards plan designed around a building’s unique layout and function. The primary purpose of the OEP is to provide guidance to building occupants in the event of an emergency, such as a tornado, active shooter, gas leak, or bomb threat.

The OEP provides lifesaving information to the occupants of the building. Occupants need to know when it is appropriate to evacuate a building, when to shelter-in-place, and when to hide. Additional lifesaving information is found in the OEP. The OEP is stored on the building’s Intranet, in a hard copy, or in both locations.

Every building that has a completed and approved OEP is required to hold at least one emergency drill per year. These drills will test the building occupants with a scenario they may face in real life. Note annual tornado and fire/evacuation drills will suffice as yearly OEP drills.

If you are unsure if your building has an OEP, please contact the building manager.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison Police Department Emergency Management is responsible for OEP additional information can be found at their website.