Residence halls at the University of Connecticut are undergoing their once-a-semester fire drills, and the UConn Fire Department is reminding students to react whenever the alarms go off.
The fire department divides the 100 residencies in zones to make the inspections more manageable. During the drill, the fire truck will go to the location and the inspections are quick, to make sure the exits are safe and they start the fire alarms said Garvin.
False alarms can be caused by cooking, hair spray, burnt popcorn or vaporizers (which are not permitted by UConn rules).
Garvin said apartments usually have more fire alarms because of cooking, while in dorms the majority of false alarms are caused by hair products or burnt popcorn.
Some students believe the high number of false fire alarms may deter some students from taking them seriously.
“Fire drills are obnoxious but I believe they exist for a good reason,” Alex Duff, a fourth-semester Civil Engineer major, said. “However, on this campus there are more than enough, to the point where people don’t even leave their buildings anymore and just ignore fire alarms.”
Captain Steven Garvin from the UConn Fire Department said sometimes they find students during the fire drills and fire alarms but these are the exception more than the rule.
The students who are found ignoring the alarm will receive penalties depending on the severity. The fire department and residential life work together to determine the penalty, which could include losing housing.
“I understand the necessity for practice drills, getting everyone used to what they have to do in emergencies, but I hate the ungodly hours they do them in,” eighth-semester Journalism major Brandon Martinez said.
In 2016 there were six small fires that were quickly extinguished. They happened at Husky Village, Belden Hall, Charter Oak Apartments, Windham Hall, Garrigus Suites and Buckley.
Martinez said many of the false alarms occur well into the night. These are not fire drills but actually fire alarms. Some of them are false alarms caused by cooking, hair driers, etc.
"These drills are to increase the safety of the occupants by practicing the routine of making an orderly and safe, but expeditious exit. Contrary to common folklore, the fire department does NOT conduct regular drills in the middle of the night. Occupants should always treat each and every alarm as though it is real and leave the area. Unless you are told in advance of a reason that the alarm will ring in a non- emergency, ALL alarms are emergencies,” the fire safety manual from residential life reads.
“A lot of false alarms are younger students who don’t understand how the system of fire alarm works. The fire department tries to educate through student groups and during freshman orientation,” Garvin said.
In the case of a fire alarm, students should first account for themselves and roommates, feel the door to see if it’s warm and if they know it’s their room they should call 911.
Students should get to the nearest exist which might not be the exist they usually take. Outside, students should get away from the building (at least 25 ft.) and out of the roadway
“Once in a while, fire alarms aren’t bad if they serve to protect students,” sixth-semester communications major Ben Stemmer said.
“If students know the reason (for an alarm) they should tell the firemen,” said Garvin. “No one gets in trouble for an accident.”
Garvin is an advocate for education and his goal is student safety.
On Jan. 19, 2000, a residence hall fire at Seton Hall University, New Jersey caused the death of three students. The aftermath of the event caused a national push for sprinklers in campus dormitories and fire prevention Garvin said.
After the early 2000s, fire incidents have declined across the nations thanks to preventive measures and the push for sprinklers.
“There have been no fire fatalities in an on-campus dormitory in more than a decade (April 2015). This is due to an increased emphasis on fire safety such as fire sprinkler systems and monitored some and fire alarms,” according to the US Fire Administration.
Daniela Marulanda is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.