Fire alarms becoming a more frequent occurrence

Steve Bushong

Last year on Sept. 5 residents of Allyn Hall were awoken by alarms to a fire on the third floor. Students promptly evacuated the building, and there were no injuries. ARCHIVE PHOTO BY GAVIN JACKSON | DAILY KENT STATER

Credit: John Proppe

Fire alarms were a hot trend in September.

Twenty-six buzzing, beeping, speaking fire scares total.

That’s a record, fire safety coordinator Ed Moisio said. And October has seen at least seven alarms in nine days, putting October on track to burn a hole through September’s record.

Among the reasons for frequent alarms are too much hairspray and burning of food, particularly popcorn, in microwaves, Moisio said.

McDowell had six fire alarms in September, the most of any residence hall.

Sophomore finance major Devon Wright is responsible for a third of those alarms. Hairspray set off alarms the first time, Wright said, and a smoking-hot hair straightener was to blame the second time.

“If they would have told us on the first night about hairspray, we probably would have no fire alarms,” Wright said.

Margie Campbell, McDowell Hall residence director, advises residents to use hair products in the bathroom, where there are no smoke detectors.

Wright was sent to Judicial Affairs for her infractions, and now she’s on probation.

“If I get a noise violation, I’m kicked out,” Wright said.

Moisio explained how hairspray could set off a fire alarm.

The smoke detectors in Wright’s room, and elsewhere, detect molecules in the air, not just smoke. A beam of light inside the detector monitors air passing through, and if the beam is interrupted, an alarm sounds, Moisio said.

Stacy Sagraves, junior nursing major and McDowell Hall resident, said that students, despite the good use of the alarms, find their frequency annoying.

“Usually when alarms go off we’re like, ‘Who burnt the popcorn?'” Sagraves said.

That’s bad news for Moisio, whose job it is to keep students aware of fire hazards.

“I don’t want everyone to go, ‘Here it goes again,'” Moisio said. “That’s when people start to get hurt.”

The possibility of a residence hall fire was made real last year when an electrical fire in Allyn Hall forced the evacuation of 80 students. The fire started in Room 316, broke through the window and climbed to the fourth floor, where it spread down the hall, the Daily Kent Stater reported.

To limit the occurrence of evacuations, alarms in all residence halls, except Twin and Tri-Towers, are programmed to sound only in the smoke-filled room. An evacuation of the building happens only when a hallway detector senses smoke.

That way, Moisio said, “Everyone doesn’t have to be disturbed if someone doesn’t know how to cook.”

Fire alarms usually bring fire engines, the cost of which is about $1,100 per alarm, Kent Fire Chief James Williams said.

Kent State isn’t required to pick up the tab.

Contact safety reporter Steve Bushong at [email protected].