Be safe, but no need for alarm over fire alarms

Students living in North Quad are familiar with the sounds of fire alarms going off at all hours. As the issue continues to persist into the new academic year, many students are eager to know what is causing it.

Joshua Goin, the associate director of Facilities & Planning Student Housing & Residential Life at California State University Monterey Bay (CSUMB) says the reason behind the fire alarms is no cause for alarm, although it’s important never to ignore them. 

 “In conversation with our facilities team, and emergency service, they both shared that the majority of the causes for these alarms are due to cooking,” Goin explained.

Students who lived in North Quad last year will remember the frequent fire alarms coming from the Strawberry building. This is the only building in North Quad that features a stove in each apartment instead of a communal kitchen. 

In a Lutrinae article published Sept. 15, 2021, students were concerned about the vents not working properly after the fire alarms went off 12 times in three weeks, with the Vineyard fire alarm going off three times the same day. 

“In a conversation with our janitorial staff, the hood vent filters are cleaned out and replaced annually during the deep clean summer turns,” Goin said. “In addition, Greystar, who supports Main Campus facilities within housing, will inspect the hood vent, filters and fans to ensure they are working properly. This is done during the annual maintenance of the building, as well as when an alarm issue arises surrounding cooking.” Greystar is the property management company contracted by the University Corporation.

Goin advises that “if there are concerns that a vent fan is not working, then students are encouraged to submit a work order.”

Some students were concerned if the fire alarm might be over sensitive to which Goin answered “the fire alarm system for Strawberry was completely replaced and upgraded in 2020. This system meets the required state codes for this complex. Fire alarms are not happening in every room frequently. According to our facilities team and our campus emergency manager, there is not an oversensitivity of these alarms.”

Third-year collaborative health and human service major Sofie Jamieson, lived in Vineyard last year, but moved to Pinnacles this year. She is particularly concerned about fire or smoke alarms because she has mobility issues caused by Cerebral Palsy. 

“In general, it’s OK (with the fire alarms) as long as it is somewhere else in North Quad. However, I get startled and worried if we would be next.” Jamieson said. “I am scared of getting stuck on my floor because of my mobility issues.”

“I know the alarm goes off more frequently in Strawberry because they have kitchens in every suite, as opposed to Pinnacles who only have one in the communal kitchen, but people still use the kitchen here. If I lived on the first floor I wouldn’t be scared of the alarm because I knew I would be able to get out by myself” Jamieson said.

Like many other students, Jamieson has become used to the alarm going off so often.

“I took the fire alarm seriously last year, because I had no way of avoiding the noise. It is a loud alarm,” Jamieson said. “Now, I still take it seriously, but I care less. It is not so much because of my mobility issues because the Resident Advisor on my floor checks on me… if not the emergency services will. But honestly, because of the frequency, I don’t care too much anymore.”

Jamieson wishes there would be better ventilation in the kitchen to avoid the problem of the fire alarms, but said “I am also concerned (about) people who are more severely limited in their mobility than me. I can walk down the stairs if someone carries my walker, but what about those who can’t walk at all?” Jamieson questions. “Why are there no ADA accessible rooms on the lower floors of Pinnacles and Vineyard? They are only on the second, third, and fourth floor.”

Fellow third-year Daniella Alatorre also lived in Vineyard last year, but like Jamieson moved to Pinnacles this year. 

“The fire alarm is annoying, but most of the time I feel like I’m not here when they go off,” Alatorre said.

“The alarm impacts me the most when they go off on Sunday evenings when I am doing homework. I have to go out and wait for them to turn it off. It causes me to get behind on homework and I don’t go to bed until later, which causes me to not get enough rest before work the next day,” Alatorre said.

Like Jamieson, Alatorre doesn’t take the fire alarm as seriously anymore. “After the first couple of times I stopped taking them seriously, especially after it happened three times in one day,” Alatorre said, referencing the previous year. “I care less now, even less than compared to last year.”

“I think housing should do something about it. Especially if a smoke detector wasn’t set off. It takes so long for them to shut the fire alarm off and now they don’t always send the cops or the fire department,” Alatorre said. “It just goes to show how often it happens. It is a waste of the fire department’s time, when they could help others instead.” 

Even though students may grow tired of frequent fire alarms, Housing stresses the importance of still taking each alarm seriously. 

“Student Housing and Residential Life has been working to send out information regarding cooking tips, as well as the importance of leaving the building during every alarm,” Goin said. “Student Housing hosts evacuation drills once a semester to share evacuation locations and reiterate the importance of building evacuation.”

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