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Firefighters climbing Kenan Stadium stairs
Photo courtesy of the UNC-Chapel Hill Multimedia Library.

Constructing, repairing and maintaining buildings on UNC’s campus takes a great deal of work. Some of this work — like roofing, welding and grinding — includes the use of flames, sparks, or heat, and is known as “hot work.” Unsafe hot work activities pose a great deal of risk to building occupants. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reports that US fire departments respond to more than 4,400 structure fires involving hot work per year, with more than $287 million dollars in property damage annually. These incidents also result in an average of 208 civilian injuries and 12 civilian deaths each year.

Because of the inherent risk involved in hot work activities, the NFPA recommends that facilities adopt a hot work permitting program. A permitting program ensures that personnel performing hot work utilize proper safety practices:

  • Removing combustibles from the area where work is being performed.
  • Keeping a fire extinguisher in the work area.
  • Completing a fire watch after the conclusion of the work to ensure that there are no smoldering fires.

The use of a permit also allows the Fire Safety team to track who is performing hot work, where hot work is being performed, and what kind of work is being done. Hot work permitting programs traditionally required paper-based systems. At UNC, employees download and print a paper form. The form is completed and kept at the location where hot work is being performed. When the work is completed, the form is to be sent to EHS for recordkeeping and archiving.

To create a more efficient mechanism for hot work permitting, EHS has developed an online permitting process. Employees who need to perform hot work can now utilize the EHS website to complete a form, automatically populating a database with all of the relevant information. Depending on the nature of the work, Fire Safety has the ability to approve or deny a permit based on the information submitted. Once a permit is approved, a notification is sent to a mailing list, ensuring that emergency responders are aware of where and when hot work is being performed. At the conclusion of the work, employees can log back in to the website to close out the permit and verify that they followed all of the required precautions.

This new hot work program is currently being piloted by the PlayMakers Repertory Company, Chilled Water Services and the Facilities Services HVAC shop. EHS plans to roll out the program to the remainder of Facilities Services in 2017. The new program will provide a more efficient, sustainable, and safe program to prevent fires and injuries at UNC related to hot work.

President Barack Obama visited the UNC-Chapel Hill campus on November 2, 2016, and EHS was heavily involved with the visit. Fire Safety coordinated with the Secret Service and the Clinton campaign to perform safety inspections of the Eddie Smith Field House and to determine a limit on the number of attendees that could safely be on Hooker Fields. During the event, the Fire Marshal worked in the command post with representatives from the Chapel Hill Fire Department, Orange County EMS, local emergency management, and local, state and federal law enforcement.

EHS Fire Safety Professionals were in the crowd to ensure that we did not exceed our established capacity of 16,500 and that there were no other fire safety issues. Our efforts and coordination with other agencies ensured a safe visit to Chapel Hill for all attendees.

Performance measurement is a critical part of the EHS management system. Education, customer service and internal processes are the three most essential components of our work. The chart below indicates the performance in these areas over a five-year period with Level Four representing optimum performance. The adjacent tab shows the specific performance activities and the level of that performance for 2016.

Components, Years and Level Completed
Education Customer Service Internal Processes
2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
3 3 4 2 4 3 2 2 3 4 2 2 2 2 2


  • Held annual fire safety fair in collaboration with UNC Public Safety, Chapel Hill Fire Department, Carolina Dining Services and Orange County Emergency Services developing relationships with students and providing hands-on training. (Level Four)
  • Performed more than 300 fire drills for UNC buildings. (Level Three)
  • Trained 1,572 students and staff on fire safety and fire extinguisher use. (Level Three)
  • Presented comprehensive data regarding Fire Safety annual work management duties to University Safety Security Committee. (Level Three)
  • Provided Incident Command System training to 25 members of the Chapel Hill Fire Department. (Level Two)
  • Participated in training for new officers at the Chapel Hill Fire Department. (Level Two)
  • Made presentation at the 2016 Wake County LEPC BEST Conference on establishing PPE programs for hazardous materials facilities. (Level Two)
  • Provided 24 hours of training to members of the UNC EHS Emergency Response Team. (Level One)
  • Provided 8 hours of hazardous materials response training to other EHS employees to fulfill annual refresher requirements. (Level One)
  • Supported 300 emergency coordinators with in-person training and the Safe Passages newsletter. (Level One)

Customer Service

  • Provided fire safety coverage to 5 home football games, 16 home men’s basketball games, and the men’s basketball national semifinal and championship game events at the Smith Center. (Level Four)
  • Provided fire safety coverage for President Obama’s visit to UNC in November 2016. (Level Three)
  • Provided fire safety coverage to 14 other special events on campus, ranging from performances at Memorial Hall to special events with the Chancellor. (Level Three)
  • Issued 7 tent permits for on-campus special events. (Level Three)
  • Inspected dining facilities with 35 bi-annual cooking hoods. (Level Two)
  • Provided life safety recommendations and monitored the annual Fall Festival for safety issues. (Level Two)
  • Participated in 2 pre-plan committee meetings for the Chapel Hill Fire Department. (Level Two)
  • Inspected 7,005 fire extinguishers on campus with 1,259 exchanged due to replacement or maintenance. (Level One)
  • Entered into an agreement to provide fire safety services to UNC-TV: Development of an emergency action plan, fire inspections, fire drills, and inspection, testing and maintenance of more than 250 fire extinguishers. (Level One)
  • Responded to 25 reports of gas or burning odors in University buildings. (Level One)

Internal Processes

  • Investigated 1 structure fire (Old Clinic) and 2 car fires (Cardinal Parking Deck, UNC General Administration). (Level Two)
  • Provided 2 work-study students an opportunity to learn about fire safety and how to operate fire extinguishers, while freeing staff for other critical responsibilities. (Level Two)
  • Implemented a new policy on the impairment of fire protection systems, including guidelines for fire watches and other compensatory measures. (Level Two)
  • Implemented a new hot work permitting process in December to improve safety and compliance with hot work procedures. (Level One)
  • Investigated and documented 236 false fire alarms during calendar year 2016 – a 13% reduction from 2015. (Level One)
  • Conducted fire alarm testing on 263 buildings. (Level One)