October 13, 2006

Glitch sparks fire alarm hours after drill

Residents of Shoreland Hall had to evacuate the dorm at 4:40 a.m. Wednesday morning when the fire alarm malfunctioned.

“It was a bug in the system,” said Paul Ryer, assistant director of undergraduate housing. “It was not clear that it was a malicious pull.”

Though the housing office had successfully executed a scheduled fire drill at 9 p.m. Tuesday evening, the Wednesday-morning alarm call came as a surprise.

Ryer, a former resident head and the current director of the Shoreland, said every residence hall has a control panel connected to the alarm system. The panel shows where the alarm originated and whether it was automatically or manually activated.

The Shoreland control panel showed that the third-floor alarm was automatically activated, while the alarm in Hale House on the ninth floor was set off manually.

“In response, possibly, to the alarm going off on the third floor, someone on the ninth floor got confused and pulled the alarm,” Ryer said.

A staff member witnessed the student pull the alarm and confirmed that it was not done out of malice.

Accidental or not, the alarm still succeeded in waking most Shoreland residents.

“I had just fallen asleep an hour ago,” said first-year Filbey House resident Nicole Pulichene, giving voice to widespread frustration with the early-morning wake-up call.

Fallers House resident head Heather La Rivière said the unexpected alarm scared her children. “When I was bundling up the kids to go outside, one of whom is three and the other six months, they were very afraid,” she said. “For many of the resident heads with kids, fear was a big factor for them, as the noise was so loud.”

Other Shoreland residents were concerned that the alarm failed to wake them.

“A lot of people slept through it,” Pulichene said. “Many of the people on my floor didn’t even know there had been [an alarm].”

Ryer said staff members check all rooms to ensure that everyone has evacuated in planned drills. However, this check does not take place when the alarm is unplanned.

“We hope that students continue to always respond to fire alarms,” Ryer said.