The only thing worse than a fire alarm system that doesn’t work is one that works too well.
It’s no secret the lucky inhabitants of Johnson and Hardwick Halls endure two to three fire evacuations per semester at the wee hours of the morning. I can tell you from experience that it’s no picnic. Two out of the last three evacuations, it was raining and freezing out with most of the people around me in bathrobes, sandals and bed sheets. Add excruciatingly-cold air and you’ve got yourself a nightmare to remember.
It’s not that I don’t appreciate the precautions that my college has taken to ensure my safety. I consider myself very lucky to be in a university that equips student housing with comprehensive fire evacuation plans and top of the line fire alarms. I know that I will be well taken care of in the event of a fire, and my family knows it and probably sleeps better at night because of it. But there have been too many fire evacuations as a result of over-cooked popcorn in a microwave, cigarettes, incense or less than adequate heat management in the cafeteria kitchens.
For students, the biggest annoyance in fire evacuations is not the sound of the alarm or the actual evacuation – it’s the time when it occurs. Three out of four Johnson-Hardwick fire evacuations were in the early morning. All three times, the vast majority of inhabitants were either sleeping or in the process of falling asleep. There’s nothing worse than a crowd of barely dressed, sleep-deprived college students: fights break out, everyone is miserable, the sudden onset of an evacuation makes more people forget their identification cards, making the process of getting back into the building even longer, and the lack of clothing on just about everyone leaves nothing to the imagination.
Even worse are the problems that the firefighters and police experience. Constantly having to come check out potential fires at a large dormitory takes these men and women away from real emergencies. As time goes on and fire evacuations become more and more frequent, their attitude will become more laid back and indifferent, just like those of the students.
In the event of a real, devastating fire, too many people will be unprepared and even more lives will be at stake.
Reform is needed to reduce the occurrence of fire evacuations at Johnson-Hardwick or any dorms to only real emergencies. Microwave usage causes the brunt of these false alarms and asking them not to be used after a certain hour is only common sense. The cafeteria situation could be improved as well.
So students, take action. You’re paying good money to receive a good education and live in a worry-free environment. If a fire drill or another grievance is posing an obstacle to either of those things, do something about it.