Environment, Health and Safety Manual - Chapter 04.06: Fire Safety - Life Safety: Public Assemblies


Environment, Health and Safety Manual - Chapter 04.06: Fire Safety - Life Safety: Public Assemblies


This policy applies to all University buildings or portions of buildings used for gatherings of 75 or more persons for such activities as entertainment, dining, amusement, lectures, seminars, etc. Described minimum criteria are for emergency planning and fire prevention practices to be employed by University departments responsible for such gathering places.

Emergency Planning

The employees or attendants at places of assembly should be trained in the duties they are to perform in case of fire, panic, or other emergency, to be of greatest service in effecting orderly exit of assemblages.

  • Attendants should know the location of fire exits and portable fire extinguishers.
  • Attendants should know how to use fire extinguishers. If evacuation is necessary, an announcement should be made over the PA system. The wording of the announcement should be established prior to the event and a specific person should be designated to make the announcement.
  • It is preferable that the fire alarms in the assembly area not be suddenly sounded as this may cause panic.
    NOTE: In some buildings the fire alarms may automatically activate. In this situation, consideration should be given to making an announcement concerning this possibility before the event.
  • Reference Fire and Life Safety Coordination Policy, Section 3-8, for places of assembly, other than regularly scheduled classrooms, with a capacity of 300 or more people.

Departmental Safety Manual

A Public Assembly Safety Checklist is to be completed by departmental managers responsible for ensuring life safety measures are in place prior to each event. The checklist will apply to all places of public assembly with 300 or more people. The departmental manager is responsible for completing the checklist 90 minutes prior to the start of each event. If required means of egress are obstructed, the admittance to the assembly is not permitted until necessary corrective actions have been completed. The Safety Checklist is required by the NC Fire Prevention Code and is to be kept on file in the department for at least two years.


The number of people in any building or portion thereof shall not exceed the amount specified.

Open Flame Devices

No open flame devices are to be used for ceremonies, theatrical performances, and the like, without prior approval from the Environment, Health and Safety Office. (Exception: portable-cooking equipment, Special Food Service Devices below.)

Special Food Service Devices

Portable cooking devices not flue connected are to be used only with prior approval from the Environment, Health and Safety Office. Candles may be used on tables for services if securely supported on substantial noncombustible bases located in such a way as to avoid a danger of ignition of combustible materials. Candle flames must be protected.


Smoking in places of assembly is prohibited.

Flammable Liquids

The storage or use of flammable liquids in places of assembly areas is prohibited.

Decorations and Stage Scenery

Combustible materials must be treated with an effective flame-retardant material. Stage settings made of combustible materials must likewise be treated with flame-retardant materials as indicated below:

  • Plywood, wood, particle board, mineral and fiber board, hardboard, etc. must be flame treated or otherwise be UL listed with a flame spread of 75 or less (class B).
  • Fabrics such as draperies and curtains must be flame treated or non combustible.
  • Plastics must be UL labeled with flame spread of 75 or less and must not exceed 10% of the wall or ceiling area. Pyroxylin plastics are prohibited.
  • Cardboard should be flame treated or painted with fire retardant paint and must not exceed 10% of the wall/ceiling area.
  • Carpet must meet Federal Flammability Standard FF 1 70.
  • Christmas trees and decorations need prior approval from the Fire Marshal. Trees will need to be artificial having the Underwriters Laboratories label (“UL”) or live trees composed of a root ball wrapped in burlap. Cut trees must be sprayed with a fire retardant material.


A non-fixed seating arrangement for gatherings of 75 or more persons requires prior approval by the Environment, Health and Safety Office Fire Safety Section. Any increase in the seating capacity of assembly rooms with fixed seats requires approval from the Environment, Health and Safety Office Fire Safety Section.

Maintenance of Exitways

Aisles, passageways, and stairways must not be obstructed or restricted by tables, showcases, or other objects. All exit doors must remain unlocked during assembly to permit evacuation.

Contact Information

Policy Contact

Environment, Health and Safety
1120 Estes Drive
Campus Box #1650
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-1650
Phone: 919-962-5507

Back to Chapter 04.05 - Egress and Life Safety Policy

Proceed to Chapter 04.07 - Portable Fire Extinguishers


Article ID: 131939
Thu 4/8/21 9:20 PM
Mon 7/4/22 1:29 PM
Effective Date
If the date on which this document became/becomes enforceable differs from the Origination or Last Revision, this attribute reflects the date on which it is/was enforcable.
01/28/2019 12:00 AM
Issuing Officer
Name of the document Issuing Officer. This is the individual whose organizational authority covers the policy scope and who is primarily responsible for the policy.
Issuing Officer Title
Title of the person who is primarily responsible for issuing this policy.
Executive Director
Last Review
Date on which the most recent document review was completed.
05/10/2022 12:00 AM
Last Revised
Date on which the most recent changes to this document were approved.
01/28/2019 12:00 AM
Next Review
Date on which the next document review is due.
09/01/2026 12:00 AM
Date on which the original version of this document was first made official.
06/01/2014 12:00 AM
Responsible Unit
School, Department, or other organizational unit issuing this document.
Environment, Health and Safety