Students raise concern over Latitude smoke alarms

The smoke alarms in Latitude apartments have been going off without warning throughout the last month.

Junior fashion merchandising major Emily Dahlstrom is a Latitude resident and no stranger to the blaring smoke detectors. 

“It goes off at least once a day,” Dahlstrom said. “The latest it’s ever gone off was 10:30 p.m. and the earliest, I believe, was 9:15 a.m.”

The alarms usually rang for two minutes at most, but they have continued for as long as 10 minutes on rare occasions. 

“It has recently come to our attention that residents have been in direct violation of our leasing contract in regard to smoking and/or vandalizing fire protection devices within units,” Latitude said in an email to residents. “Our Security Services have confirmed that these instances have caused the fire alarms from being set off throughout the building.”

As the alarms continued, Latitude sent out a second email that said, “… the entire building has been experiencing the effects of burnt food in apartments which has triggered the fire alarms in the apartment and then the entire building.”

The Kent fire department was brought in to fix the issues with the alarms.

“We discovered an issue with the vents that are above all of the stoves in each unit and the common areas,” Lt. Jeff Coffee of the Kent Fire Dept. said. “They’re recirculating fans instead of exhausting fans. When they’re recirculating air, they’re actually pushing it up toward the ceiling toward the smoke detectors.”

One smoke detector alarm triggered smoke detectors across the complex to ring less than a minute after the initial alarm. This is known as a general alarm.

Emma Werley, a senior art education major, said the alarms had gone off up to four times per night.

“It creates a stressful environment because people are trying to study and we’re all students trying to make it through the first two weeks,” Werley said. 

Coffee said the false alarms go against a city nuisance ordinance, which can result in fines. The fire department opted not to fine Latitude as management was working to get the problem resolved.

To prevent the alarms from going off, residents were told to open windows, turn on microwave fans and wave a towel to disperse the smoke. 

In addition to the noise problem, residents like junior studio arts major Cameron Dean were wary of a boy-who-cried-wolf situation.

“I’m worried that by the alarm going off so often, if there’s a real fire, no one’s going to know it and it will hurt a lot of tenants,” Dean said.

Residents were becoming unsure if they should exit the building each time the alarms occurred, putting people in potential danger.

“I would hope that folks always pay attention to the fire alarm and exit the building when it goes off,” Coffee said. “I know it gets to be something that they think is routine and that tends to be ignored, but those seconds do save lives.”

On Sept. 19, the Kent Fire Department inspected the smoke alarm system. Effective Sept. 20, the alarms are fixed and reprogrammed to notify occupants in each apartment of a potential fire, but the apartment alarm will not trigger the general building alarm unless it is an actual emergency.

“We should be free and clear of those false alarms,” Coffee said. “As of now, those new programming features are in place and working.”

Latitude was unable to be reached after several emails and phone calls. 

Contact Hannah Gooch at [email protected]