Weather causes false alarms in dormitories

The recent rash of false fire alarms in the Travers/Wolfe and Decker residence halls has been linked to a combination of humidity and dust, according to campus officials.

“In the beginning of the year, when the dust coating the smoke detectors in the rooms mixes with the humidity it can set off false alarms,” Annie Lewis, assistant residence director of Decker Hall, said.

According to Lewis, most of the alarms that went off in Decker Hall occurred before the residents moved in, and there could have been more than 30 false alarms in the span of two or three days. The problem was remedied by Simplex, the company that manufactures the College’s fire alarm system, on Friday.

Decker Hall’s Residential Education and Housing staff set up a 24-hour “fire watch” routine to handle the alarms until the problem could be fixed. The Decker Hall staff, in conjunction with community advisors from Travers/Wolfe and other dormitories, would check the main alarm grid at the entrance to the building and then go to the room where the detector tripping the alarm was located.

“We did this for the residents’ safety and convenience, rather than evacuating the whole building every time an alarm went off,” Lewis said.

The problem began 24 to 36 hours before students moved into Decker Hall, Lewis said.

Travers/Wolfe halls also encountered issues with their fire alarm systems, experiencing false alarms at extremely late and inconvenient hours on the day the Class of 2011 moved in. According to Kellie Perkowsky, residence director of Wolfe Hall, there have been at least two false alarms in Travers Hall already this semester and four in Wolfe Hall.

“There was more stress with the second alarm (on move-in day) because it was an inconvenience,” Perkowsky said. “Our staff quickly addressed the issue to make sure we didn’t have a third, fourth or fifth alarm. They performed crowd control, comforted parents, and made sure everybody knew it wasn’t an actual fire.”

Workers from the office of Facilities are still investigating the alarms.

“It’s my understanding there was an anomaly with the ungodly high humidity,” Glenn Mettrock, Maintenance Shops Supervisor, said.

Residents of Travers/Wolfe halls were aggravated by the persistent fire alarms, especially since they occurred right after move-in day.

“By the third alarm on the first day, it was pretty bad,” Kevin Ladny, freshman mathematics major, said. “It was not fun to be that sleep-deprived our first day here. After the third one, we didn’t even know if we should bother to move. We knew they weren’t real.”