Fire alarms force students outdoors

Steve Bushong

Strobes, sirens and an automated man speaking, “Attention. Attention. A fire has been reported,” can mean just one thing: Students have four minutes to evacuate their residence hall -nearly nude or not.

A rash of fire alarms on campus have left some students annoyed, wet and cold, but the most recent alarms weren’t the result of overheated popcorn or voluminous use of hair products.

Fire Safety Services held its first round of annual fire drills Monday through Wednesday.

Krista Smith, freshman visual communication design major, volunteered to pull a fire alarm in Lake Hall Wednesday, setting off an evacuation.

“It feels amazing; I always wanted to do this in high school,” she said.

Humor was a popular attribute of the fire drills.

Outside Lake Hall, Danny Muir, senior criminal justice major, was concerned about his friends.

“I think they may be trapped inside the building,” he said.

Some students ran, screaming “Fire! Fire!” Two male residents of Johnson Hall evacuated wearing nothing but bath towels.

Ed Moisio Jr., Kent State’s fire prevention and safety coordinator, doesn’t mind the jokes.

“That’s what I like,” he said. “I like to see them smiling.”

But the drills have a serious objective.

“I want (students) to know what a fire alarm sounds like,” Moisio explained. “I want it to be a learning experience.”

Several years ago, Moisio said a student from Iran was found hiding underneath a pool table during a fire drill in his residence hall. He thought Kent State was about to be bombed.

Grace Ryman, freshman early childhood education major, was in the shower when the alarms sounded. She stood outside of Prentice wearing a towel on her head.

“I didn’t know what the sound was,” she said. “Someone came in and told me, so I got out.”

Ryman wasn’t the only Prentice Hall resident mystified by the noise. One student stood at her doorway bewildered by the drill’s sights and sounds and herds of evacuating students.

“You have to leave,” Moisio instructed her. She shook her head “OK.”

“That’s why we have voice messages,” he explained.

During the drill, Moisio, John Childers, fire prevention specialist, and a team of security personnel checked the floors for open doors, people hesitant to leave and flaws in the alarm system.

Moisio found one door open on the third floor of Dunbar Hall. He stepped inside and did a quick scan for people, unruly decorations and other risky dorm room behavior.

“This one had a false barrier,” he said. “They’re not allowed to have that.”

Moisio wrote down the room number on his pad of paper and locked the door. He said he’ll be contacting the room’s residents soon.

Two minutes later, Dunbar Hall residents were given the signal to go back inside.

A second round of fire drills will be held in the spring.

Contact safety reporter Steve Bushong at [email protected].