Letter to the Editor: Playing With Fire
Indifference will not fix the fire alarm problem in Fahey-McLane.
Re: “Repeated fire alarm activations in Fahey and McLane Halls lead to student frustration” (Feb. 9, 2023)
I am disappointed to see that a lackadaisical attitude is apparently the official response to the plentiful fire alarms plaguing Fahey and McLane Halls.
“The fire alarm system is working as intended,” Residential Operations said in an email.
“There’s really nothing that can be done,” Hanover fire marshal and deputy police chief Michael Gilbert told The Dartmouth.
This is simply untrue. There’s plenty that can be done.
First, recognize that these false alarms — an average of one per week this term and one every two weeks last term — are disruptive and wasteful. Incessant alarms prevent us from getting enough sleep (one alarm last week was at 1:30 a.m.!) and interrupt work, in addition to the “anxiety and stress” mentioned in Residential Operations’ email. Alarms also require both College and town personnel to respond. All of this is an enormous waste, but officials’ blasé attitude suggests they feel otherwise.
Second, address the root cause of the problem: There are apparently activities in which students are engaging — including some that are allowed under the fire code — that are setting off the alarms. Yet incredibly, in the only communication residents have received (after 11 alarms in two terms), we were given no information about what triggered them. Are we expected to figure it out on our own? After checking the detectors to ensure they are working properly (which is ongoing), the solution here is to, in writing, instruct affected students about what is setting off the alarms and how they can avoid doing so. If individual students repeatedly cause alarms afterwards, fine them.
To stop pointless fire alarms and ensure that a “boy who cried wolf” problem — in which students do not evacuate because alarms are so common — does not develop, Residential Operations and the fire department must commit to these truly basic fixes. The lack of concern up to now is obvious every time horrible screeching sends us, for no discernable safety purpose, into the cold.
Kyle Mullins is a member of the Class of 2022 and a resident of Fahey-McLane. He is the former editor-in-chief of The Dartmouth and currently a member of the Opinion staff. His views do not necessarily represent those of The Dartmouth.