It is nearly one in the morning on a Tuesday. Most students are sleeping, quietly studying or winding down after a long day. However, in the Edward T. Lewis Quadrangle (LQ), students are busy slowly and routinely filing out of their suites as a fire alarm blares throughout the complex. This has become a consistent occurrence for residents of LQ. SGA senator Aaron Johnson estimates that this has taken place as many as 5 to 6 times in the Fall 2018 semester alone, with many incidents happening in the late evening.
It takes a toll on students too. SGA senator from LQ, Cory Shorter, says it has “certainly affected students’ sleep schedule.” Johnson adds that his roomate,a student-athlete, has to wake up as early as 5:00a.m. for practice, making these 1:00a.m. wake ups essentially the middle of the night for them. As the alarm becomes more frequent, danger to students in the event of an actual fire becomes more likely. In the event of an actual emergency, students are likely to react to an alarm slowly, if at all. LQ Resident Assistant Willow Limbach says the frequency of the alarm is a safety hazard, stating “Eventually, when the alarm goes off at 2:00a.m., students will go back to sleep.”
What causes these alarms in LQ? Certainly, some of these false alarms are caused by students smoking or burning candles indoors, however, Limbach confirms that this is not exclusively the cause. She specifically notes a mid-afternoon incident in her own suite in which the alarm, went off with no visible trigger. On this note, what characteristics of the residence make this problem so rampant exclusively here? Many theories have been suggested, from more sensitive and faulty detectors, to a specific propensity of LQ residents to smoke indoors. Although there may be some truth to these theories, the most logical explanation is much more simple. Unlike other residences on north campus, LQ residences are consolidated into one continuous building; an alarm in one suite means the entire complex must evacuate.
How should this issue be addressed to benefit students in the future? Although the most common answer is for students to cease smoking indoors, increased enforcement of this is seen by most as impractical and a waste of school resources. Additionally, with the majority of the current incidents not resulting in any disciplinary action against students, it is unclear whether this would even combat the issue.
Replacing alarms and detectors across the complex is another frequently mentioned remedy. However, there is no concrete proof of faulty equipment being a root cause of the frequent alarms, so the effectiveness of replacing the system is ambiguous.
Separating the quadrangle into individual alarm and evacuation zones is another proposed practical solution. Unfortunately, due to the consolidated nature of LQ, this does not comply to the fire code in the state and therefore impossible without structural modifications to the complex as a whole. Regardless of the possible flaws to each approach, the alarm, along with the nuisance and hazards accompanying it, continues to affect students’ daily lives.