Safety systems

Learn more about the University's fire safety systems, especially in regard to building design.

There is a wide range of fire safety systems fitted to the buildings within the University, and they vary depending on the building's age.

Older buildings may only have basic provisions for rapid escape, while newer or upgraded buildings will be fitted with sensors, sprinklers and smoke isolation systems.

Building design

Fire exits

All of our buildings are fitted with fire exits, and they can be identified by a green sign showing a person running through a door.

Some signs will illuminate for around half an hour when the fire alarm goes off or if power is cut, so that people can find the exits in low light conditions.

Fire exits must never be blocked by furniture, equipment or stored items (even temporarily).

If they are lockable, they must be able to be opened from the inside without a key.

Fire cells

Modern buildings using concrete as the prime construction material are split into cells so that a fire in one room or section of the building will not spread to other parts or other floors. 

In many cases, the entries to stairwells are fitted with smoke and fire resistant doors, giving around one hour of fire protection in a large fire. For this reason, fire doors must not be modified or drilled into.

Smoke isolation systems

Within a building, the heavy smoke from a large fire flows around much like liquid does in a flood (but up near the ceiling). 

If the smoke is then heated enough, it will 'flash-over' and form an incendiary cloud that will ignite everything it touches.

It is extremely important that this smoke is not allowed to spread from fire cell to fire cell, and we do this by using smoke stop doors and fire curtains.

In modern buildings, these features are held open by electro-magnets that are turned off when the fire alarm is activated. The doors will swing shut and the curtains will lower, thus forming a barrier so the smoke does not spread.

In older buildings, smoke stop doors permanently block off corridors, and people need to push through them to move around. 

Don't use wedges to keep doors open

People that use wedges to prop open the doors place everyone in the building at risk, as this will allow the smoke to spread throughout the building along corridors that are necessary for escape.

For this reason, people are not permitted to hold back older style smoke-stop doors with wedges or door hooks. Wardens should remove these wedges as soon as they are spotted.

Smoke detection systems

Smoke detectors are widely used, and will sound a piercing alarm if they detect smoke.  In our more modern buildings, they will also alert the fire service.

Hard-wired smoke detectors carry out regular self-checks and will sound an alert if a fault is detected.  Although many battery-operated smoke detectors now have 10-year battery life, they all need regular testing (normally as part of the time changes around daylight saving).

Note: If a smoke detector starts beeping at a slow interval, it is indicating a fault that must be reported to Property Services via the Staff Service Centre.

Fire suppression systems

The most common fire suppression system in use at the University is sprinklers.

Some information about sprinklers:

  • These are fitted to the ceiling and use high pressure water to cool down a room and to saturate a fire directly underneath. 
  • If you look closely at a sprinkler head, you will see a small capsule of liquid. This will burst when heated and allow the water to flow.
  • Once a sprinkler is set off, it can only be turned off at the Main Fire Panel.  Note that it is commonly thought that if one sprinkler is activated, all the other sprinklers will also activate. This is not the case — just any that are above a heat source.
  • Care must be taken to not place any tall items under the sprinkler, otherwise the water pattern will be affected.
  • Make sure you do not place hot objects near the sprinkler head or damage the sprinkler in any way.

Some areas (mainly computer data centres) may use a gas fire suppression system. 
In some cases this gas will displace the oxygen within the room, so special precautions (and staff inductions) are required.

Document Control
Version: 1.0
Last Updated: Dec 2019
Next Review: Dec 2022
Owner: hsw@auckland.ac.nz
Approver: Associate Director, Health Safety & Wellbeing