Campus safety officers, Southern Village residents navigate increase in fire alarms

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Southern Village residents have experienced 20% more fire alarms this school year than last school year, according to a flyer sent out by Campus Safety to Village residents on March 2. The flyer also outlined that 88% of these alarms are caused by cooking, with construction, hair products and tools for the other 12% of alarms.

Many students noticed the increase in alarms since the beginning of this semester. Senior nursing major Stephanie Trinidad, an RA in Southern Village, said the alarm in her building went off seven times this semester — none of which were the result of a real fire. 

“I’m not 100% positive why this keeps happening,” Trinidad said.

Two of the seven incidents Trinidad referred to happened to senior nursing major Juliana Camacho. On Jan. 23, around 6 a.m., Camacho was boiling water for tea while showering when she heard the fire alarm go off. She quickly got dressed, opened the window and went outside. Camacho said her water was only steaming a little, and she didn’t know if the alarm was her fault.

Camacho also said she was confused by the verbal instruction in the fire alarm.

“It’s a weird new alarm,” Camacho said. “It said, ‘Do not use the elevator. Exit now. … Follow your company’s protocol,’ or something like that.”

According to Camacho, when Campus Safety arrived 14 minutes later, they checked and cleared everything. Camacho left her apartment but returned around noon. The fire alarm was going off again.

“During the next couple days, the alarm went off multiple times,” Camacho said. “It was a non-stopping thing.”

Fire and Safety Specialist Josh Fraker said there are two fire alarm systems on campus. Both are fully functioning and safe, according to Fraker. He said in the past three years, various buildings around campus, including Southern Village, have been upgrading to the new system, called Honeywell. The new alarms measure smoke and heat in different ways to determine whether there is a fire or not, according to Fraker. 

The fire alarm policy on Southern’s website says, “When the fire alarm activates, immediately exit the building using the nearest available exit. It is not your responsibility to determine whether or not there is a fire.” 

Referring to the flyer sent to Village residents, Fraker said, “The tips on the flyer are not just random — most of our smoke alarms are cooking-related and can be avoided if the resident turns on the vent hood over their stove and stays with their food.” 

The three main tips on the flyer are as follows:

  1. Check the vent — Vent hood should be turned on over stove any time you are cooking in the kitchen.
  2. “Attend your food — Do not put anything in hot oils, sear or steam without monitoring it.
  3. “Open kitchen window or door — If you do burn something, immediately open the kitchen window or door to let out odors or smoke.”

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