Mead residents all fired up about late-night alarms

 Photo courtesy of Wiki Commons.

Photo courtesy of Wiki Commons.

BY MERYL PHAIR ’21

Early in the morning on Saturday, Sept. 16,  Amanda DeBellis ’18 and her rabbit, Hazel, were woken up around 1:30 a.m. in Mead Hall by the sound of a blaring alarm. When DeBellis went out into the hallway to check it out, she immediately smelled smoke. Grabbing her rabbit and her roommate, the trio made their way down from the second floor and outside into the night. 

Minutes later the fire department arrived. When the smoke had cleared, it was reported that the fireman looked “flustered’ and “annoyed.” The cause of the alarm activation was found to be burnt microwave popcorn that had been carelessly thrown into a recycling bin, causing the whole thing to erupt into flames. No onewas harmed and with the exception of a smelly recycling bin, no property destroyed.

This incident would not be the last time this semester that Mead Hall would experience an unexpected fire alarm. The next Saturday morning, DeBellis and many other residents were again abruptly woken from their sleep, this time at 2:21 a.m. By the time Campus Police arrived on the scene and were able to turn off the blaring noise, everyone was wide awake. 

In addition to the Mead alarm, there have been three other fire alarms that have been activated under false pretenses from a pull station located within the residence halls. As stated in the Annual Jeanne Clery Campus Security and Fire Safety Report, the fire alarm was activated on Sept. 16at 12:03 a.m. in South Rockefeller Hall, Sept. 17and at 2:15 a.m. in North Rockefeller Hall. 

There have also been a few planned fire drills in some of the residence halls this semester, including Wilder and Torrey. Christine Albain, Area Coordinator for Campus Green, said in an email, “We do three fire drills in each building over the course of the academic year and split them up between spring and fall semesters.” The dates and times of the drills are not public information.

DeBellis has accommodations from AccessAbility Services which require that she be informed ofwhen the fire drills are going to happen. She said she has found these unexpected fire alarms unhelpful.  The initial experience was highly stressful and unnecessary, she said, andit affected her the next day as well. She was “tired all day Saturday and felt like I couldn’t get anything done because I couldn’t really fall back asleep after.” 

Like many other students on campus, DeBellis has an animal living with her, and was concerned with her safety during the alarms. Her rabbit was “not happy” with being woken up at such an hour, DeBellis said, because loud noises and flashing lights can be highly traumatic and disruptive for animals like Hazel who have sensitive ears. In DeBellis’s haste to get out of the residence hall on the night of the sixteenth, she forgot Hazel’s carrying case and had to hold her in her arms. She loves her rabbit and didn’t even want to think about what would happen if, “he got really scared and jumped out of my arms.”

All of the false fire alarm cases remain open. Students who notice suspicious behavior around the pull stations are encouraged to call Campus Police. 

Mount Holyoke News

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