Students living in Wright Hall at Illinois State University got a rude awakening last Thursday.
Residents evacuated the tower after the fire alarm sounded around 4 a.m.
The incident last Thursday was not the first. This fall, the fire alarms in Wilkins and Wright halls went off a little more frequently than students were expecting.
ISU freshman math education major and Wright Tower resident Ashley Baldwin said it seemed like the alarms went off weekly.
“It was maybe a 20 to 25 minute process of us standing outside, and they came back down before we learned that it was burnt popcorn again, like it always was,” Baldwin said.
Assistant Director of Environmental Health and Safety Donald Kunde and Baldwin agreed that technological issues can cause false alarms but both claimed the fire alarms at Wilkins are often due to student misuse of the residence hall microwaves.
“All residence halls now have new fire alarm systems that utilize advanced technology including voice capability supporting different types of messaging: fire evacuation, weather emergencies, notification of system testing,” Kunde said.
Freshman interpersonal communication studies major Morgan Shurtz expressed her worries about the repercussions of fire alarm evacuations.
“It makes it very difficult to get a good night’s sleep some nights,” Shurtz said. “A lot of the time they go off late at night or early in the morning, and I’d hate for it to happen the night before or in the morning on a day I have an important exam.”
Kunde and EHS understand student grievances related to false fire alarms.
“We constantly are looking for ways to reduce or eliminate those false alarms without reducing the effectiveness or coverage of the buildings fire alarm system,” Kunde said.
He recommended that students pay more attention when heating up food in the microwave.
“One of the biggest thing students can do to prevent false fire alarms is to carefully read cooking instructions for the food they are preparing and never leave food unattended in the microwave,” Kunde said.
The microwaves in residence halls do not always stop heating food when the timer goes off. For that reason, Kunde encourages students to stand near the microwave while cooking rather than walking away.
“Often times, students will begin using the microwave and have their attention drawn away, therefore forgetting about the food in the microwave and causing it to burn,” Kunde said.
Get it together, Deborah.— Normal Fire Department (@NormalFire) October 9, 2019
We respond to fire alarms that have been set off by burnt popcorn. The common denominator is someone cooking and NOT paying attention. Unattended cooking is the #1 cause of all house fires. #StandByYourPan #WatchWhatYouCook pic.twitter.com/TIP3EJ4b6d
EHS coordinates fire safety training for residents and staff along with fire safety initiatives. October is National Fire Prevention Month.
“Fire alarms are there to provide you with early notification and that extra time you may need to safely get out of the building,” Kunde said. “Smoke is the number one cause of death in fires and an actual fire can create a lot of smoke very quickly.”
October is Fire Prevention Month. Almost all fires are preventable. Our goal this month is to present you with the necessary fire-prevention information to keep you safe, wherever you are! #firesafety #SafeRedbirds #YourRedbirdLife pic.twitter.com/iIJ8EH9mVD— Safe Redbirds (@SafeRedbirds) October 1, 2019