Students Heated over Frequent Fire Alarms

BY ZOE STAUDE // APRIL 1, 2015 //

Burnt popcorn, over-heated hair dryers, and electronic cigarettes are just some of the reasons students on campus have been forced out of their residence halls in the dead of night.

Late-night fire alarms are getting tiring, according to many students.

Approximately 20 fire alarms have gone off this year due to a mix of reasons, said Public Safety Chief Brian Greeley. Two were from malicious pulls, he said, while the rest were from student error or a system error.

“On our perimeter roads, if that road loses water pressure it affects the water pressure in the residence halls—and that automatically sets off an alarm,” said Greeley.

In other words, according to Greg Woodbury, fire prevention lieutenant with the Canton Fire Department, when the Milton water main used by Curry dramatically changes pressure—due to the use of a nearby hydrant, for example—it sets off an alarm because the system is tricked into believing that sprinklers are going off in the dorm buildings.

Fire drills are required for each residence hall at the beginning of the school year, as a safety precaution in the event of a real emergency. However, it’s the timing of the many other alarms that have students fired up.

PHOTO BY GAVIN ST. OURS, creative commons
PHOTO BY GAVIN ST. OURS, creative commons

“The fire alarms go off at really random times,” said Jamie Cole, a freshman biology major. “I live in Mayflower, and there were times where it would go off, like, every night around 2 to 4 a.m., and we would all have to wait outside for a half hour. It was usually on a school night, too, so we would all be exhausted for our morning classes.”

Sinead McGrath, a freshman community health and wellness major, said the problem hasn’t been so bad in her dorm, Lombard Hall.

“We don’t have many fire alarms, but when my friends from other buildings have them we always invite them to come to our rooms to stay warm,” she said. “It stinks having to wait outside in the cold until the fire department gives the OK to let them back into the building.”

The Milton Fire Department and Curry’s Public Safety office are notified as soon as an alarm starts buzzing. If for any reason the Fire Department arrives before a Public Safety officer can greet them, the Fire Department has access keys that allow them to unlock the gates on campus, Greeley said.

In addition, all fire alarm monitors and smoke detectors on campus are checked bi-weekly, on Tuesdays, as are fire extinguishers and emergency telephones, he said.

Empty Extinguishers, False Alarms Have Students Heated


The good news is that the fire alarms in residence halls at Curry College clearly work. The bad news is that some students seem to think fire safety is a joke.

In the 886 residence hall and others around campus, people have being pulling fire alarms as pranks — sometimes in the early-morning hours — forcing students out of theirs bed and into the night cold. In other cases, students have been playing with fire extinguishers. And some of those extinguishers remain empty.

Junior Ashley Sarnie, a nursing major and resident assistant int 886, is among those who has had to deal with these incidents.

“People have only spread the fire extinguishers twice,” Sarnie said. “People frequently have pulled the fire alarms around the time when people are trying to sleep.”

Photo by Mr. Beaver//Creative Commons
Photo by Mr. Beaver//Creative Commons

Freshman Tom Eanelli, who lives at 886, is among the many students feeling frustrated.

“It’s actually ridiculous,” Eanelli said. “I’ve had to wait outside three or four time this year [due to the fire alarms]. Each time around 3 a.m., during the winter so it was cold, too.”

Eanelli added that some students don’t seem to respect the dorms at Curry.

According to Sarnie, no student has been caught or fined for the alarms this year. If someone was caught, the punishment can be severe. The college’s policy reads: “Any student who wantonly and without authority pulls a fire alarm under any falsehoods or damages any fire alarm system faces prosecution (Mass General Laws) and or expulsion from the College.”

Currently, there are two empty fire extinguishers in 866 and two more in Lombard. No fire extinguisher is available in the basement floor of Mayflower.

Milton Fire Prevention Officer Brian Doherty said that because Curry is a private school and the college owns the fire extinguishers, it is up to Curry to refill them. Neither town nor state law requires them to be refilled, he said.

“If we were to go to public schools or public places, we make sure that all the fire safety equipment is up and running,” Doherty said.

As for Curry, Doherty suggested the college could find the guilty parties with a little sleuthing.

“The fire alarms and fire extinguishers have white powder that, once pulled or touched, can take a finger print of whoever did it.”

However, the college does not have a database of student fingerprints to run them against.