Drill or real fire: students confused by recent fire incident

by Raneen El-Barbarawi / Staff Reporter

Students and faculty members waiting on Michigan Ave. or the signal to go back inside. Photo by Adnan Basic.

Remember having to walk down 29 flights of stairs during the fire drill Roosevelt held last year? Well, it appears that the blaring, ear-piercing alarm that rang through student and faculty members’ fingers, despite the hope that plugging their ears would actually make the alarm less loud, was not just a drill.

On Oct. 21, at 12:54 p.m., the fire alarm in the auditorium building went off, causing students and faculty members to evacuate the building. Mike Pizana, the assistant director for campus safety, said that “the fire alarm went off due to one of the smoke detectors in the building detecting smoke in a particular area.” However, word quickly spread around that a popcorn machine on the 12th floor was the actual cause of the fire alarm.

Pizana explained that the RU procedure for fire drills is that students and staff members are instructed to leave the building when they hear the fire alarm go off. He then added that the University conducts fire drills where the Chief Engineer, Jeff DeBrizzio, tests the fire alarm systems.

 Pizana also said that the “ALL CLEAR” was given at 1:14 p.m. indicating that students and faculty members were allowed to re-enter the building.

However, many students explained that they didn’t really care much about what was going on because they were unaware if the incident was a drill or a real fire.

“At first, we didn’t take it seriously because we were moving at our own slow pace. But, when we saw the fire engines, we knew it was serious,” said Kamaria Grayson, a freshman majoring in marketing. She then added that she did not go back to class after the incident, but instead went to Franklin’s café.

Grayson also explained that she was on the fourth floor of the auditorium building when the alarm went off. “The noise was unbearable in the hallway,” said Grayson.

Maggie Vasha, a junior majoring in psychology, also spoke about the noise that came from the fire alarm.

“It was super loud. Roosevelt doesn’t have enough fire drills so I didn’t know if it was real or fake or if I should rush out of the classroom,” said Vasha. “There weren’t much instructions on what to do but to keep walking so we all just stood outside.” Vasha then added that she went home after the incident.

Jesus Flores, a junior majoring in history said, “Do we even have fire drills? Is that even a thing or did that end in high school?” He then added that he also left because it was a sign to “go home.”

However, the fire alarm did not sound off in the Wabash building and students were not sent an email after the incident occurred.

Jamar Orr, assistant provost for student affairs and the dean of students, said that there was no email sent out because the fire department gave the all clear, meaning that it was safe to return to the building. “Given that the fire alarm was triggered by burnt popcorn, the information did not rise to the level of something that needed a separate communication,” said Orr.

Pizana also added that “an email would be sent if there was an actual fire or the Fire Department deemed it necessary to close a section of the building or the entire building.” He explained that the “Wabash building and the Auditorium building are two separate buildings with each building having their own fire panel system” which is why the alarm only went off in the Auditorium building.

Pizana then said that fire drills are important “so people know what to do in the event of a fire.” He also said that “if a person has a disability, campus safety can show them where the Area of Rescue Assistance (AORA) is located and how to use the AORA alarm.”

However, students like Adan Deters, a freshman majoring in hospitality, spoke on his frustration with having to walk down 10 flight of stairs with a “loud alarm in his ear.” 

At first, Deter thought the event was just a fire drill. “My professor was upset and she kept on teaching for like two minutes. But, then we took the stairs from the 10th floor and we stood outside for a bit because I thought it was a drill,” said Deters.

Mary Williams, a math instructor and the co-coordinator of the General Education Math Program, explained that she was teaching her class on the 10th floor when the alarm went off and she was one of the last ones out. But, she “instructed her students to take their things and head to the stairs”.

“The students were calm…” said Williams. “The loud alarm as you walk down the 10th floor is horrible though.”

Williams then explained how only seven out of her 24 students returned back to class after the all clear signal was given. Although, she said that she continued teaching the lesson because she is “accustomed to interruptions and having to adjust schedules, so it wasn’t a huge problem for her or her class.” 

“The Campus Safety Department and the Facilities Department followed our procedures in the evacuation of the auditorium building,” Pizana added.

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