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Fire alarms rack up student summons

By Shannon Nia Alomar
In the 15 cases in which evacuation was not adhered to, a total of 72 summonses were issued to students, according to Karen O’Callaghan, Director of Public Safety.
Summonses are issued when students fail to evacuate their rooms during an activated fire alarm, because Public Safety can be subjected to fines from the Fire Marshall’s office.
“Students must understand that these are not false alarms, but actually activations not usually because of fire,” O’Callaghan said. “I can’t think of a reason why a student would ignore a fire alarm, but in many cases, students stated they were sleeping and didn’t want to get up,” O’Callaghan said.
Public Safety has responded to 78 fire alarms this semester. Fire activations are frequently caused by popcorn, excessive shower steam and hair products. But that has not stopped students from staying in their rooms.
Bryan Kugler, junior journalism major, received a summons for exiting his building too late after an alarm went off due to his noise-cancelling headphones. He expressed his understanding of the Res Life and Public Safety rule, but he believes if residents leave their buildings they should not be issued a fine, even if it is not in the respective time-frame.
Kugler noted that not all fire alarms are, in his view, worth the evacuation.
“Most of the times it’s because some girl doesn’t know how to use her blow dryer or hair straightener or kids are just smoking in their rooms, which is why I feel the alarms should be made with less sensitivity,” Kugler said.
Another student who believes the alarms are not a good enough reason for leaving her building in the middle of the night is junior film and television major, Molly Holtzinger.
“I don’t think any of the alarms are worth exiting for. They go off so frequently that it can’t even be expected to be taken seriously. I always hide in my wardrobe when they go off [and] I think the six-minute rule is stupid. I really don’t think you should have to leave if you don’t want to. I don’t get why it’s mandatory,” Holtzinger said. Holtzinger was a residential student in Enterprise last year.
Although she did not receive an actual fine for not leaving her room, on one particular occasion Public Safety “yelled” at Holtzinger and her mother for not evacuating her dorm room. She explained to the officers that they had slept through the alarm but the officers lectured them on the possibility of what could have happened if it were a real emergency.
Alaysia Williams, junior community health major, expressed her frustration at receiving a summons, although she believes it is valuable to evacuate during alarms.
“I think it is a good safety precaution to evacuate for every fire alarm. However, most evacuations are the result of students’ accidently setting off the sensitive fire alarms and should be handled in a more efficient manner so that students can [get] back into the buildings as soon as possible. Many times Public Safety is aware of what set off the alarm, yet they stand around and let students wait forty-five minutes to an hour just to get back inside,” Williams said.
In her particular situation, much like Kugler, she exited her building late during a fire drill. Williams received a letter informing her that she would need to meet with her Resident Director (RD) but had to reschedule her initial appointment. Although Williams said a response email was never sent to her regarding her attempt to reschedule, Williams received an email stating she was fined $100 for failing to comply. Student Financial Services sent her the bill on April 24 and the due date was that following day.
“I do not think students should be fined $100 for leaving the building six minutes after a fire [alarm goes off]. It’s just another way for the school to take money from students,” Williams said.
The rules are set and students can choose to abide by them or not, but Public Safety urges that students are receptive to the regulations because their safety is at stake.
Amanda Horvat, associate director of Residential Programs, brought special attention to the “Living Factor,” a pamplet given to all residential students at the beginning of the year has a “Fire Safety Guidelines” section on page 10. The Evacuation/Fire Alarm Procedures inform students what to do when the actual alarm is sounded.
“For your own safety, evacuate. There are too many tragedies of students perishing or being seriously injured in fires on other campuses not to take an alarm seriously. We did have two instances of paper burning in residence halls, so it isn’t a case that it doesn’t happen here,” O’Callaghan said.


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