Frequent fire alarms fire up residents

By Jesse Lewis
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Residents of Arizona-Sonora Residence Hall are steaming after enduring 23 fire alarms this academic year, the most of any UA residence hall.

Sgt. Eugene Mejia, UAPD spokesman, said the alarms have gone off two to three times each month since August.

"They have either been tests, false alarms or drills that were not reported and we responded to," he said.

Maggie Haley, an undeclared freshman, said she no longer has patience for the drills.

"I hate the fire drills with a passion," she said.

A couple of weeks ago, the hall's residents were forced into the rain after another fire alarm went off.

"It is absolutely insane that we have so many fire drills, and they need to handle the problem," said Kelsey Brown, a pre-education freshman, as she stood outside waiting to be let back into the hall.

Aaron Davis, an Arizona-Sonora desk assistant, said a fire alarm went off two weeks ago because it was dirty.

"They collect dust, which can cause them to go off," he said.

Jim Van Arsdel, director of Residence Life, said the fire alarms are cleaned fairly often, but some dust stays behind.

"It just takes a single dust particle to set off the alarm," he said.

Judy Taylor, administrative assistant for Residence Life, said only 14 alarm have gone off this year, according to her office's reports. But that number still ranks Arizona-Sonora as the hall with the highest number of fire alarms for the second consecutive year.

The fire alarms have been caused either by smoke from cooking, system failures or other incidences. There was one mandatory, scheduled fire drill, Taylor said.

Many factors contribute to excessive fire alarm soundings, including students who intentionally pull them, Van Arsdel said. Preventing that from happening is not something the staff can handle alone.

"We will do the best we can to identify who those folks are and take proper action," he said. "But we know that residents see it happening, and we rely on them to let us know."

Van Arsdel also said students who pull a false alarm are immediately evicted.

For some students, the multiple fire alarm warnings are becoming so redundant they are not surprised when they have to leave the hall.

"I'm pretty used to it by now. We've had so many," said Christin Kranitz, an undeclared freshman.

Kristen Westrick, a psychology freshman, said it becomes a problem for students when the false alarms interrupt their sleep, which it has a few times this year.

"This is the like the 40th one this year. Some nights we will have two, with 45 minutes to get back to sleep before the next one," she said.