Malfunctioning fire alarms in Brooks Residence Hall cause evacuations during the night

Students evacuated Brooks Residence Hall at unexpected times due to an issue with a part of the fire alarm.

For the Environmental Health & Safety department, fire safety is a priority. According to the EHS website, each residence hall is equipped with fire extinguishers, fire doors, fire sprinklers, and heat and smoke detectors. Heat sensors and smoke detectors are a significant part of the building safety equipment. The department also encourages preparedness through building fire drills occurring once a semester.

Regardless of this, sometimes a smoke detector has a malfunctioning part, thus causing an unexpected fire evacuation to take place.

There have been two fire evacuations at Brooks Hall in October. The first occurred on Sunday, Oct. 6 at 4 a.m., Liz McCune, associate director of MU News Bureau, said in an email.

According to freshman Emily Skerston, the drill at 4 a.m. was unexpected, and she at first was unsure why her residential hall would have an unexpected evacuation at that specific time of night.

“My roommate woke up very fast and was ready to go, but I was unsure as to what was going on at first because I was so caught off guard with the alarms going off at that unusual time,” Skerston said.

Campus Facilities staff shared there was a faulty jockey pump pressure switch that may have caused the fire alarm, McCune said in an email. A jockey pump is a part of a fire sprinkler system that maintains a certain pressure in the system and ensures that if a fire were to occur, the sprinkler would be activated. The part was then ordered to repair the issue.

The second evacuation occurred Tuesday, Oct. 8 at 8:50 p.m.

Skerston believes students were outside for a longer period of time for the second evacuation. She thinks Campus Facilities was officially fixing and assessing the situation. Additionally, she is glad the issue is resolved and there will not be another late night fire evacuation.

On Wednesday, Oct. 9, the part arrived and the switch was repaired. No other evacuations have occurred since the repair.

Both evacuation procedures went well in regards to students exiting the residence hall and Residential Life staff, Columbia Fire Department and Campus Facilities completing their responsibilities during and after the alarms.

This was an unexpected evacuation for students, as they were not told a drill was going to take place at those times.

Students in other residence halls have experienced unexpected evacuations at unusual hours as well. Earlier in October, Hatch Residence Hall had an evacuation at 3 a.m. due to a resident pulling the fire alarm.

“I was questioning at first why the RHA staff would decide to have a drill at that hour of night, but then they told us someone pulled the fire alarm, which made it more frustrating,” freshman Rachel Etwaroo said.

Residents of Hatch Hall were caught off-guard by the evacuation and were questioning at first why the evacuation was occurring without prior notice.

“We never know when it’s going to go off and are always on edge,” Skerston said. “Nobody knew what it was for, and we never got information on what it was for.”

Edited by Laura Evans | levans@themaneater.com

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