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The Blue & Gray Press | November 19, 2017

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18 Fire Alarms Occur Over Two-Month Span

BY VALERIE LAPOINTE

Residents of Eagle Landing have spent an unusual amount of time on their front lawn along U.S. Route 1 this semester, due to the sensitive fire alarms in their building.

Sophomore Jeremy Thompson has been keeping count of the alarms and said that during the first nine weeks of the semester, Eagle Landing residents were evacuated on 18 different occasions. Alarms have gone off during all hours; in the daytime, at night and even once while it was raining, but the procedure is always the same.

“We wait 10 to 15 minutes, the fire department shows up and the police come,” said Thompson.  “They call out the room number in which the alarm was set off and you have to walk through the crowd of people waiting outside.  It’s not only a nuisance, it’s public humiliation.”

Through the halls of Eagle Landing, many students keep track on the whiteboards on their doors that say, “Number of days without incident.” Despite this small expression of comic relief, students have become increasingly frustrated, as the problem has yet to be solved.

Many residents admitted that they have stopped going outside when the alarm sounds, which presents a safety concern since there is no way to guarantee that every alarm that sounds is without due cause.

Director of Residence Life Christine Porter said she sympathized with Eagle Landing residents, but urged them to continue to comply with fire evacuation procedure.

“We understand that this is a challenge,” Porter said. “It is an unfortunate obstacle of being in a new building and we know that it is a nuisance and we are trying to fix it, but it is still important that people evacuate the building when the alarm sounds.”

Eagle Landing residents seem convinced that nothing is being done to solve the problem.

“All we have been told is to keep doors open and turn on fans to diffuse smoke if there is any,” junior Chris Vellucci said. “It’s like all they have done is ask us to change our habits rather than actually fix the building.”

Director of Environmental Health and Safety Ruth Lovelace said the situation has not gone unnoticed.

“The university is meeting with the design engineers to see if the Fire Code will allow us to change the design [of the alarms],” Lovelace said in an e-mail.  “The UMW safety office has had the system sensitivity decreased, this has reduced the number of alarms but it is still not acceptable.”

All of the 18 alarms that have sounded in Eagle Landing this semester have been unplanned, so residents will still have to complete three planned fire drills required by the Office of Residence Life before the semester ends, Thompson said.

Photo Courtesy of Anne Elder/Bullet