Accidental fire alarms cause disruption for students, staff


TheHilaryClark, Pixabay

When a tripped fire alarm forces a school evacuation, the Mayfield Village Fire Department rushes to the scene. Principal Jeff Legan said, “If someone’s vaping or someone pulls the alarm, we know where they’re at. We’ll take a look at the video, and then the student is disciplined for it. We know who’s going in (to the bathroom) when the alarm gets tripped, so it’s easy.”

Lydia Abbey, Guest Writer

Fire drills happen all the time at school, but the many accidental alarms have been disrupting students, staff, and first responders who come to help.

Jane Perry, Assistant Principal for Student Affairs, is in charge of creating the plans and regulations for all fire drills and unplanned alarms. She said, “Unfortunately I would say the most common [unplanned alarm] over the past few years has been people vaping in the bathroom because it triggers the sensor, and that is really frustrating when you think about how that impacts our student body because of somebody’s choice to do that.”

The students who cause this disruption do not go unnoticed, according to Perry. She said, “The fire department comes as soon as the alarm goes off, so then we meet them where the panel is. Then they have to do their own investigation, and then they’ll reset it and give us the all-clear. From there we go to our security cameras and we look to see what parties were involved, and look to see if it was a false alarm perhaps triggered by human activity, and then investigate from there,” Perry said.

According to principal Jeff Legan, if a student were to continuously cause these alarms, there can be serious consequences. He said, “If it’s accidental and it happens one time from a student, then that’s just an easy conversation with the student. But if it’s something that happens more regularly, which has happened in the past, then it’s not accidental.”

During accidental drills, the fire department is not already there, so this is an interruption to the fire department because they are then required to come. Jarrod Mulheman, Assistant Principal for Curriculum and Instruction, said, “[An alarm is] tied to their department, so they get notified right away… Everyone still has to evacuate until we can determine what’s going on, the fire department has to come out, and they have to give us the all-clear that it’s safe to come back in before we can come back in.”

Fire drills are required by law and take time out of the days from students, staff, and the fire department. Perry said, “We have a certain number of drills we have to do each year, and that’s determined by the state fire marshal. And then we notify Mayfield Village Police and Fire ahead of time when we’re doing our drills, and I think they’ve been able to attend every drill so far this year.

“They’re here to observe the drill, they watch our traffic patterns in terms of how the students and staff go out of the building, and [they] see if we need to recalibrate anything in terms of our evacuation routes to get people out more efficiently,” Perry said.

Perry said these monthly fire drills are planned in order to make them the least disruptive as they can be. “Typically I try to schedule them during class change because it takes usually about three-to-four minutes to evacuate the building, and then I have to allow a few minutes to get everybody back in, and then sometimes we end up with a few stragglers, so I try to allow for all that so it’s not too much of an interruption to instruction time,” she said.

But, when the drills aren’t done in this planned schedule, it’s not always because of a student’s poor decision, according to Legan. “Sometimes there is dust that gets in our system and then it triggers the fire alarm,” said Legan. “So if [workers are] doing construction, they’re supposed to put a rubber glove over [the sensor] to try to keep the particles from going in. But if it goes in, then it will trip the alarm system.”

In order to keep everyone safe in case of an accident that was not caused by a student, there is a routine set in place that the administrators have to follow. Perry said, “When there’s a false alarm, what’s going on in the building is usually Officer Stuart [Galicz], myself, and our building and grounds maintenance crew, we all go to the fire panel, and it will tell us which sensor triggered the alarm, then we go to that sensor and do an immediate site check to see if there is anything of concern going on.”

There have been four fire drills so far this year, and five more remain for the 2021-2022 school year.