The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

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The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

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Fire alarms cause disruption at Century Hall

After Fire Safety officials detected a bug in the system, fire alarms in Century Hall were tested repeatedly last week, much to the displeasure of the residents.

"We discovered a problem on Monday [Oct. 20] when we went to change a smoke detector, what is also called an audio base," said Joe Gallagher, Fire Safety Director. "As a result, we tested the building when we changed it."

According to Gallagher, they found out that some of the smoke detector audio bases were not working in some of the rooms.

The service contractor who originally installed the alarms was summoned to resolve the problem.

"It appears that there was some kind of problem in the software system and they couldn’t detect where the problem was," Gallagher said.

As a result, alarms would go off in one room but not in another. In order to pinpoint the problem, numerous tests were conducted but the results were not consistent.

"Sometimes the problem would be that we’d have an audio base go off in, let’s just say room 104-1, down the hall the alarm wasn’t going off," Gallagher said. "And the second time it would be reversed. So, this bug was traveling and we didn’t know where it was. It would hit sometimes in between two things, so we would test it and the outside company [Lund Fire Protection Company] would have to ring the alarm purposely with design to see what alarms were functioning and which were not."

In order to be sure the alarm was in working order, smoke detectors in each room had to be checked numerous times. If the student was not available, permission was obtained from Residence Life before anyone entered the room.

The smoke detector in each room was checked numerous times. If the students were not available, a procedure was followed upon entering the vacant rooms.

"If they [students] were not there, they had to follow normal procedure, knocking twice and announcing themselves," Gary Bice, Director of Residence Life said. "Then there’s a key-in, and they check the smoke detector."

Some residents felt that the constant sounding of the bells was frustrating and distracting.

"It was very disruptive," Bice said. "It was a pain and people were getting annoyed, but it was necessary because the ultimate goal was to make sure the system works so if there were a fire, it would prevent people from getting hurt."

"They were going off like every five minutes," said Nicole Martin, a junior Century resident. It’s something that should’ve been taken care of over the summer."

"It was very annoying," said Amanda Mendoza, a Century resident. "I came back to do my work in the afternoon and I left the building because I didn’t want to stay here with all the noise."

Some students became so frustrated with the alarms that they disconnected the smoke detectors. Despite the frustration, dismantling a smoke detector is illegal and it is an offense that school officials take seriously.

"No one is allowed to touch the equipment. That’s the city of New York fire code. You can be locked up for that," said Gallagher.

"Just imagine if someone disconnects the smoke detector and they’re doing whatever they’re doing in the room, and perhaps a fire starts, then the alarms won’t go off. You’re going to create a smoke condition, a fire condition, and we could have a potentially serious problem," he added.

Sophomore and Century resident Jessica Cappucci said that the alarms were a hassle especially when people were trying to take a nap, but fully understood that it was for their safety.

According to Bice, the Resident Assistants held a meeting to inform the residents of the problem and made sure that they understood the testing was for their safety.

Testing of the alarms began immediately Monday, Oct. 20 afternoon when the problem was detected and was resolved by Wednesday, Oct. 22 afternoon. The testing took place during the afternoon while most classes were in session.

As a result of this, both Gallagher and Bice said that the other residence halls will be tested next week and in a more organized fashion. A plan of action for the next phase of testing has not yet been devised.

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