Fire alarm evacuation is optional?


It’s typical on a college campus to have fire alarms set off, whether from lab exercises, students putting popcorn in a microwave for 20 minutes and walking away, or any number of other reasons; it isn’t a surprise, therefore, when the alarm is sounded. But that doesn’t mean it should be disregarded as nothing to worry about.

On Tuesday, April 2, the fire alarm was set off on the third floor of Regula Hall.

Tuesday, April 2, the fire alarm was set off on the third floor of Regula Hall. (Photo by Autumn Berry)

The alarms sounded in Mitchell Hall and Timken Science Center as well.

“When a fire alarm is set off in a dorm or in a building there are sensors that notify the local fire department before anyone on campus is notified from the physical plant or from campus safety,” said David Burnip, Director of Campus Safety.

“It is mandatory for the fire department to come in response to an alarm being set off regardless of if it’s a false alarm or not,” Burnip said. But on Tuesday, when Burnip and the fire department showed up to the scene, there were students and faculty still in the building completely ignoring the sound of the alarm.

“Ohio state law requires evacuation from a building from every person inside the building when a fire alarm goes off,” Burnip said. “We all have been taught from grade school to exit quietly and shut the doors behind us.”

That was not the case on Tuesday.

Donald Tucker, the University Provost, sent out an email campus wide saying that he was told there were faculty and students that did not evacuate the buildings and ignored the safety warning and safety regulations that the fire alarm requires.

Organic chemistry professor Jeff Goff was in the lab on the third floor of Regula Hall when the alarm was sounded.

“Apparently there were some utensils being heated with the autoclave, and for some reason it wasn’t closed all the way or wasn’t functioning properly. Steam was released and there was a fire alarm located right above it and when the steam hit the alarm it sounded,” Goff said.

“We were actually in the middle of lab and we had hoods running, which are loud pieces of equipment, and we didn’t actually hear the alarm. It wasn’t until some of my students stepped into the hall and came back in and told us the alarm was sounding and then my class and I exited the building,” Goff said.

Unlike Goff and his class, there were many who refused to exit the building even when they heard the alarm.

“We found students in the café in Regula as well who refused to go outside, and when we asked why they wouldn’t they said it was too cold outside and they didn’t have their jackets,” Burnip said.

Senior communication arts major Caleb Kruse was in a classroom in Mitchell Hall when the alarm went off.

“My first reaction was that it was a false alarm and that there was no point to walk outside. We lingered inside for a couple of minutes, but inevitably walked outside and finished our discussion in the library,” Kruse said.

When asked about his professor Marcia Everett’s reaction, Kruse said, “I think there was an initial pause and a sigh, but she knew we couldn’t stay inside. Marcia is much too wise to stay inside a building with the prospect of a fire looming.”

If false alarms are set off regularly, the fire department begins to charge Malone for each visit.

The email from Tucker warned faculty that failure to evacuate during a fire alarm is a serious violation that could endanger everyone involved. It is crucial to follow procedure during any fire alarm to ensure the safety of both faculty and students.

Kyler King is a contributing writer for The Aviso AVW.

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