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Five Alarms, No Fire: Here’s What Happened in Gummere

First-year students and their Customs teams living in Gummere Hall awoke to five separate fire alarms that began in the early morning of Sept. 16. The alarms were triggered from Gummere’s basement each time, where there had been a party that night.

The incident startled some Gummere residents. “In my first year of living in Gummere, we never had a fire alarm past like 3AM,” said Sarah Jesup ‘20, a UCA on Gummere 1/2 whose hall was concerned about how late the alarms went into the morning of the 16th. “[It] seems unsafe because my the end of the night not everyone was getting out of bed to clear the building.” [Note: Jesup is an illustrator for the Clerk.]

Associate Director of Campus Safety and Safety Coordinator Mark Sweeney explained that the multiple alarms were the result of older equipment and confusion from students.  “We don’t call the fire department right away unless somebody reports a fire or smoke condition in a building,” said Sweeney. So, after the first alarm sounded, campus safety officers went over to investigate in Gummere. A student reported to the officers that they had bumped the fire alarm pull station in the basement, which the officers did find to be loose. Officers then reset the fire alarm and left the dorm.

But the alarm soon went off again. “A little while later the alarm goes off again, they [Campus Safety Officers]  still think it’s the pull station…So they go back and they try to adjust it again,” Sweeney said.”The alarm went off three or four more times while they were trying to fix this pull-station, [but] that was their best-faith effort to keep that system in service.”

In the morning, campus safety officials including Sweeney discovered that it was an aging smoke alarm in the basement, rather than a damaged pull station, which kept triggering Gummere’s fire alarm. A fire alarm technician replaced this detector on Sept. 17 during a previously-scheduled visit.

Luckily, events like this are not likely to happen again because all of the fire systems on campus had an annual maintenance check just this summer. “We bring a company in and they test every smoke detector, every pull station, all the horns in the buildings, and they go around and clean them as well, so that eliminates false alarms.” Sweeney also noted that campus safety has been replacing the detectors in each dorm room. These measures, he hopes, will drastically reduce false alarms on campus.

“The other night, we don’t like that that alarm went off a bunch of times and annoyed people,” Sweeney said, as he is hopeful that the now near-complete phase-out of older systems will  eliminate such chance inconveniences.

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