Safety Alert | Building shutdowns, emergency exits

Fire Door, warning signs read do not obstruct, do not keep open, alarmed and use other door

UNSW Safety is issuing safety alerts to remind staff and students about:

  • Accessing emergency exits via fire stairwells throughout UNSW buildings
  • The requirement to not enter buildings during shutdowns. 

1. Accessing emergency exits via fire stairwells

Recently, as a UNSW staff member was walking past a building Fire door, they heard a loud and urgent knocking coming from inside. On opening the door, a student was found trapped in the stairwell. The student had taken a wrong turn and went through the door to the stairwell, instead of the classroom door they were looking for. When the student turned back to retrace their steps and exit back out of the stairwell, the fire exit door was locked. The student tried to contact a friend to come and assist, but the phone reception was poor, and the student was unable to describe their exact location.

Most fire-isolated stairwell doors are locked from inside the stairwell as a security measure to prevent people from travelling to open/common spaces into office spaces which are not publicly accessible.

The final exit out of a building fire stairwell is always unlocked.

What is recommended going forward?

When using fire stairwells, always keep travelling DOWN to the lowest level to exit a building to the external surrounds.

  • Try not to panic
  • Walk safely down the stairs using handrails if available
  • Carry your mobile phone with you (noting reception may be poor in some internal stairwells)
  • Download the SafeZone app onto your mobile phone

2. Building shutdowns

Recently, a building on the Kensington Campus was shut down in a planned event outside normal working hours. In the early hours of the morning, a person intentionally circumvented security processes and gained entry into the shut-down building to retrieve their personal items after a work function, placing themselves and the Security Guard at heightened risk of trips and falls. 

UNSW will completely shut down buildings periodically to undertake building maintenance. For planned shutdowns, building occupants are given plenty of warning ahead of the event and security staff are placed at doors to prevent access. Buildings may also be shut down during unplanned, emergency events. As such, pre-warning may not be possible in these situations. 

When a building is shut down, nobody is permitted to enter under any circumstances, unless explicit permission is granted by Security. 


For further information, contact [email protected]

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