Campus / Campus Safety / News / October 20, 2010

Causing a false alarm

“RRRRRRRRRRR” It is every student’s worst nightmare. The sound roars through the room as one groggily opens her eyes and stumbles out of her bed.

Fire alarms. Whether it is simply for a drill or a legitimate warning, students can relate to being rudely awakened or forced to leave the building at what seems to be the most inconvenient times. Sophomore Tessa Cavagnero recalls the fire alarms going off winter term last year while taking a shower.

“I had to find marginally acceptable clothes and then run out into the snow – it was no fun,” she said.

Senior Sam Martone can also relate to the inconvenience of fire alarms.

“My worst was actually my first,” he said. “The alarm went off but I slept right through it and my roommate had his headphones on. So I woke up to two guys busting into my room, asking me what we were still doing in here and the loudest noise ever coming in from behind them. Needless to say, it was very confusing and unnerving in my sleepiness.”

Due to the large number of experiences such as the ones Cavagnero and Martone had, many students question the efficiency of such fire alarms and how effective they really are. Despite previous belief, the fire alarms do their job more than 85 percent of the time they are set off.

According to Director of Campus Safety John Schlaf, “The alarms go off in response to dust particles settled on the alarm and changes in the environment (aerosol spray, moisture from the showers).” Also, in some circumstances it may be things such as dust or insects.

Some students may feel the fire alarms are too sensitive, but Schlaf feels that is not the case.

“Not at all. The alarms do what they’re designed to do…which is to detect changes in the environment,” Schlaf said.

However, building and facility services are always looking to update the fire alarm systems for safety reasons. In fact, they are currently in the process of updating the fire alarm systems in the dorm buildings. Although the location of these new fire alarms was not specified, “they will be less sensitive to those things which are not heat related and more sensitive to fire related emergencies, “ Schlaf said. However, “it’s difficult to say if they’ll go off as often.”

Ashley Wolfgang

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