Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts
Wheaton College

Campus Life

D-log: Get Outta There!!

Posted on November 18, 2013

D-Log:  November 18, 2013

Some years we have epidemics of flu, other years stomach viruses, and almost always, as the winter approaches, various strains of colds make their way around campus like a city bus.  But this morning, upon reading the weekend’s Public Safety incident reports, I’ve realized we have a different epidemic, one that you are probably finding downright annoying:  fire alarms.

Alarms go off for one of two reasons.  The first is a drill, which you hopefully learned about back in kindergarten.  The other occurs when a smoke detector…detects smoke, and then sets off the alarm.  Regardless of the reason for the alarm, both require your departure from the building in which the alarm is sounding.

Allow me to deconstruct the problem here, starting with the regular fire drill.  Once each semester, we are required by law to perform fire drills in every residence hall.  For these, the Norton Fire Department shows up to conduct the drill with assistance from Public Safety.  You know the drill (sorry): The alarm goes off and all occupants are expected to exit the building within 2 minutes.  If that happens, NFD packs up and leaves, and students can go back into the building and know that another drill is months away.
The problem, though, is described in the incident reports I read on too many mornings.  Almost without exception, one, or two, or sometimes three students fail to exit the building on time.  Sometimes they meander out ten minutes into the drill, saying they were in the shower, or sleeping.  Other times, they are found in their rooms asleep or ignoring the ear-splitting alarm going off a few yards away.  When that happens, the building—the entire building—fails the fire drill.  Fail.  As in, you’re going to have to do it again.  And that may happen when it’s colder, and later, than the first one.

So if you are frustrated that these drills are happening, that you are being awakened or interrupted and (because you were paying attention in kindergarten) you exit the building, only to find that NFD has flunked your hall, then tell your fellow residents who choose to ignore the alarm to get out.  It is not PS or NFD or Res Life that should be the object of your enmity.  It’s the people you live with who think it’s no big deal to mosey on out ten minutes later wrapped in a towel, or take their time getting dressed, or tell a PS officer “I’m sick and didn’t think I should have to leave” (yes, someone did that).

Winter is coming, so please—do your part to avoid repeated fire drills.

About the other cause for fire alarms:  actual smoke.  These most commonly are the result of students who are careless around microwaves.  So again, if you want to avoid being evacuated from your building at an inopportune moment, like at 3 am when it’s pouring rain, please encourage one another to not leave the kitchen while they are cooking something.

One last reminder:  a disabled smoke detector will result in a $500 fine for the resident(s) of that room or floor.  This may be the only thing Wheaton has in common with an airline.  I am so totally, incredibly, thoroughly serious about this matter that I am putting your money where my mouth is.  Placing anyone in this community in jeopardy for selfish reasons will never be acceptable.

As always, thank you for your help in keeping each of you safe, warm, dry and well-rested.


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