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FAQ's - Fire and Life Safety During COVID-19

Many questions have been raised regarding modifications that can be made in buildings to improve COVID infection control for occupants. Maryland State Law under the State of Maryland Fire Prevention Code (COMAR 29.06.01) may limit certain options.  Below is a list of answers to common questions that have been brought to the Fire Marshal’s Office.

Can I prop doors open?

Some office doors and room doors may be propped open if they are not fire doors.  Fire doors cannot be propped open unless an approved hold open device is connected to the fire alarm system.  Doors that serve stairwells, separate different parts of a building, or protect hazardous areas from corridors (laboratories, maintenance shops, etc.) are generally fire doors intended to stop the spread of smoke and heat during a fire.

Can I bypass the latching mechanism on a door (with tape or magnets, etc.) so that it can be pushed open without using the handle. Can I modify the door handle?

No, fire doors must remain latchable. Door handles cannot be modified as they must be openable without special knowledge or special tools.  Modifying a door handle can also be an ADA issue as it may make the door more difficult to open by someone with a disability.

Can I hang curtains or install a divider from the ceiling to the top of my cubicle, essentially enclosing it?

No,  most curtains do not meet flammability requirements.  Any item installed on the ceiling will also block the sprinkler coverage within the space.  This also includes installing anything that extends above the top of cubicle walls.

We would like to place Plexiglas up for separation. Can we do that?

The university is providing plexiglass barriers. Free standing barriers are ordered through the Procurement and Business Services Digital Storefront.  For barriers that must be made and/or installed, call the Customer Response Center (X52222).  Barriers of any type that are installed by Facilities Management will be reviewed by the Fire Marshal’s Office for code compliance.

If I live in a double occupancy residence hall room can I use a room divider or install a curtain system around/attached to my bed?

Yes, but only if approved by Resident Life.  The Fire Marshal’s Office will review installations for Resident Life.

Can I cordon off an area of room, suite, or floor to restrict access?

Cordoning off an area to restrict access may impede a means of egress or create other impacts on fire and life safety.  Contact the Fire Marshal’s Office for review (

Where can I store furniture that needs to be moved to allow for social distancing?

Rooms within the building should be identified by Facilities Management or the department for the purpose of furniture storage.  No furniture may be placed in any means of egress in order to keep all means of egress paths unobstructed. 

We want to create a one way in and one way out traffic flow. Can we do that?

Yes, under the following conditions: 1) every exit is available for emergency use; 2) occupants know that they can travel in any direction to get to the nearest exit during an emergency; 3) only approved signs and directional floor clings available from the university are used (to access the signage toolkit and order form, click here. For signage questions, contact FM Signs and Graphics at or by calling (301) 405-7257).  Facilities Management has prepared circulation paths for most campus buildings. Residential Facilities and Intercollegiate Athletics are preparing their own circulation paths.  Contact the Fire Marshal’s Office ( to review circulation path plans if you are doing them for your own building.

What do we need to do during an emergency building evacuation? 

If the building fire alarm sounds, you must exit the building.  Wear your mask and maintain social distancing to the extent possible. If there are specific evacuation procedures established for your building, follow them.  Fire emergencies are an imminent danger.  Getting out of the building is the priority.

What do we need to do if there is an emergency situation where we must shelter in place? 

Go to a safe location. Wear your mask and maintain social distancing to the extent possible.  Situations such as severe weather/tornadoes and active attackers are an imminent danger. Finding safe shelter is the priority.

Can I install hand sanitizer dispensers in my office or suite?

Hand sanitizer dispensers are installed by Facilities Management at key locations throughout buildings.  If you would like additional dispensers, contact the Customer Response Center (X52222).

If I obtain bottles of hand sanitizer for staff, how much can I store?

If needed, only store a very small quantity (a few extra bottles) of hand sanitizer as it is a flammable liquid. Only a small amount of flammable liquid can be stored in a building.  Hand sanitizer provided in key locations by the university will account for much of the flammable liquid that is permitted to be stored.  In laboratory buildings, the flammable liquids storage for research is subject to additional stringent requirements, unrelated to other flammable liquids outside of laboratories.

One gallon containers of hand sanitizer are located at entrances and other places in my building.  Can I have one gallon containers in my office or office suite?

No, Facilities Management was given approval to temporarily use the one gallon containers until smaller quantity wall-mounted hand sanitizer dispensers, which are currently difficult to procure,  are available from vendors.

With the reduced capacity in our break room or kitchen, can I have a coffee maker or microwave in my cubicle?

No, too many coffee makers and microwaves can overload the electrical system and be a fire hazard.  These devices, when placed in confined spaces around combustibles can also, in themselves, be a fire hazard.

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