Should you pull the fire alarm after a chemical spill?


Following the announcement of the Seattle Police Department’s preventable fire alarm initiative (that will result in fines for false alarms starting January 1, 2020), EH&S has fielded concerns about whether a fire alarm should be trigged when a fire is not present.

EH&S instructs laboratories with hazardous materials to pull the fire alarm to evacuate the building when a chemical or hazardous material spill has occurred that poses a danger to others in the surrounding area.

On the Seattle campus, the activation of the alarm will notify the UW Police Department and dispatch the Seattle Fire Department. EH&S will serve as a liaison to the Seattle Fire Department, and in that capacity, we will support your use of the fire alarm system to evacuate the building when danger is present.

We encourage the UW community to use the fire alarm system to notify emergency responders for any situation when you may fear physical harm, including after a lab accident. Refer to the Building Emergency Procedures and Resources page for information about situations that could necessitate the evacuation of a building.

Please review the Chemical Spills in Laboratories page and the updated Spill Response poster for more information about preparing for and responding to chemical spills.