Living on Alma College campus, the reverberating sound of fire alarms quickly becomes a familiarity for all students. Fire alarms are particularly prevalent among the first-year dorms, Bruske Hall and Gelston Hall.
“The fire alarms go off often – about once a week, if not more.” said Bruske resident Annabelle Avolio (‘23).
There are many reasons for these frequent fire alarms, most of which are cooking-related. Smoke from improperly cooked microwave meals often results in a fire alarm.
“Because they’re transitioning into college, they might have never made food for themselves before and have no idea how those things work. Every year we have the same trends where somebody makes mac and cheese or ramen noodles without water.” said Nicholas Benjamin, Assistant Director of Residence Life and First Year Experience.
However, many different activities could set the fire alarms off at any moment. Most of these activities are common everyday actions that could result in a fire alarm by complete accident.
“I typically find that it’s just students who aren’t necessarily aware of what they’re doing. They might put something in the microwave for too long. A lot of times hairspray will cause the alarms to go off if they spray way too much of it. It’s a case-by-case basis.” said Benjamin.
Although many first-year students know the proper fire evacuation process, some students choose to not evacuate their dorms because they assume it’s caused by a false alarm. However, there’s no guarantee that any alarm is a false alarm until the residence hall is declared safe by staff.
“I know where to go. I always evacuate the building, even if I assume it’s a false alarm. I don’t think everyone else in the building necessarily evacuates though.” said Avolio.
Because of the frequent fire alarms, there will be fire safety informational events for first-year students hosted on November 21st from 7-9 p.m. in the lobbies of Gelston and Bruske. These events were a new idea proposed by the RAs to provide first-year students with the information they need to hopefully prevent the fire alarm from ringing and perhaps reduce the amount of false alarms.
“The RAs thought it was a really good idea so everyone knows how to make food if they don’t want to go to the cafeteria or if they’re studying and need something quick without causing the fire alarms to go off.” said Benjamin.
The new fire safety events will feature games to make the experience both informative as well as enjoyable for first-year students.
“They’re gonna have a Kahoot, and that’s gonna cover things like what our actual fire policy says, some fun facts about fire safety and just in general how to make certain kinds of food.” said Benjamin.
Although most of the fire alarms among the residence halls turn out to be false alarms, it’s important that students take each alarm seriously.
“We know to get out of the building, stand outside, and don’t go back in until it’s been cleared.” said Bruske resident Madie Acosta (‘23).
In order to ensure that all students are safe in the event of a fire, those living in residence halls should read the Alma College fire policy carefully and memorize the evacuation protocols. Never just assume that any alarm is a false alarm; doing so could put students’ lives at risk.
“If the fire alarm does go off, what I tell all students is to treat it seriously because at the end of the day, you never know and it’s better to be safe than sorry. My recommendation is always to get out of the building, stay away from the doors and stay far away from the building.” said Benjamin.