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Safety guidelines issued for decorations

The Safety Office has issued guidelines for the use of holiday decorations in all Institute buildings and guidelines for holiday functions.

Flammable decorations such as natural greens, straw, crepe paper and streamers in school buildings and places of public assembly are prohibited under Massachusetts fire prevention regulations. Flammable decorations are also prohibited in corridors, stairways, lobbies andstudent residential rooms. The use of greeting cards, wrapping paper or streamers to decorate exit corridor walls is prohibited. Noncombustible decorations or those labeled as flameproof are permitted.

All Christmas trees, wreaths, greenery and decorative boughs must be artificial, with an approved flame-retardant label. Natural trees (cut or alive), natural wreaths, boughs, or greenery are not permitted in campus buildings.

Decorations are allowed in offices, enclosed lounges and other nonpublic areas. They are not permitted in lobbies, corridors, aisles, stairways or passageways. Under some circumstances, approved trees may be permitted for a limited period in certain lobbies for a specific function, provided approval is granted from the Safety Office. They must not obstruct an exit or narrow a pathway to the exit. Trees are not permitted in public assembly areas or laboratories, and they may not obstruct the usual view of exit signs.

Only UL-approved lights rated for use on artificial trees are to be used. Larger tree lights normally used on natural trees generate enough heat to melt plastic and ignite decorations. Miniature or "twinkle" lights are preferred. Remote spotlights are recommended for use with metal treees to avoid an electrical shock hazard.

Christmas lights, electric ornaments and extension cords in corridors and over exit doors are prohibited.

The use of open flames for candles, other lighting and decorative purposes is prohibited by the Cambridge Fire Department. Religious services utilizing candles are exempted.

To ensure that appropriate approvals are obtained for decorations or events, contact department administration, Housing management, student group advisors or the Campus Activities Complex at x3-3913 for information on what's required and where to begin to seek the required approvals for events. The Safety Office recommends planning early to allow time to make adjustments or obtain city permits.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on November 24, 1999.

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