Five fire alarms in the Southwest Quad have been accidentally set off since Jan. 19, causing buildingwide evacuations in the dormitories at various points in the middle of the night and afternoon, and prompting repairs by Planning and Facilities Management and criticism of the university’s handling of the alarms.
Three of the alarms occurred in the middle of the night, from 1 a.m. to 3 a.m., and two in the afternoon. Students living in Reynolds, Kennedy and McCarthy Halls evacuated each time the alarm sounded.
The cause of the alarms has been identified and repairs are underway, according to a Feb. 9 email from the Office of Planning and Facilities Management and the Office of Residential Living sent to Southwest Quad residents.
“While work is in-progress, precautions have been taken to prevent future fire alarms related to the issue,” the email read. “We are confident any future fire alarms will not be related to this ongoing issue.”
Facilities Management did not specify what issue had caused the fire alarms.
The email followed an alarm that went off at about 3 a.m. on Feb. 9, which caused many residents to feel the university was failing to address the root of the problem.
Southwest Quad resident Nabil Kapasi (SFS ’20) said the frequency of the alarms should have been cause for greater concern.
“The inability to control fire alarms showed a serious lack of urgency by the administration. It went off multiple times before the night alarm, so it wasn’t a random occurrence,” Kapasi said. “The fact that they hadn’t dealt with it before throwing hundreds of students into the cold at 3 a.m. is appalling and almost unbelievable; how can such an important thing, something that impacts our homes, be left untreated?”
Southwest Quad resident Ana Madero (SFS ’20) expressed a similar sentiment regarding the lack of action on the university’s part.
“I’d say the worst part is the lack of accountability from the university,” Madero said. “All we would get is an email saying, ‘sorry for the inconvenience’ with no logical reasoning behind them.”
The university stressed the importance of building occupants evacuating immediately after the fire alarm sounds in the Feb. 9 email.
“Moving forward, should the fire alarm activate in your building, it remains extremely important that you continue to treat these alarms seriously,” the email said. “Your safety remains our highest priority.”
However, the repeated alarms over the last few weeks have caused the significance of each to diminish, according to Southwest Quad resident Youngho Yun (MSB ’20).
“The biggest problem I see is people taking fire alarms lightly now,” Yun said. “I’ve seen some people go back into their rooms and wait it out, instead of walking out of the building.”
Madero noticed a similar trend of students ignoring the fire alarms.
“I’m just worried that this has caused a ‘boy who cried wolf’ type of situation,” Madero said.
The university plans to notify all Southwest Quad residents via email of the reason for future fire alarm activations within 12 hours of each alarm, according to the Feb 9. email.