Brockman’s alarms begin to alarm

 21 alarms this semester have prompted questions about updates and safety

Photo courtesy of Twitter | Students wait to re-enter Brockman Hall after a fire alarm on Aug. 26. So far this semester, 21 alarms have gone off, raising questions about updating the system and concerns from Cincinnati Fire and Residence Life.

During the past two and a half months, no fewer than 21 fire alarms have gone off in Brockman Hall, which has prompted new discussions about how to update the system as well as how Cincinnati Fire may respond to future alarms.

Despite complaints about rowdy first-years, Brockman traditionally has more fire alarms than any other dorm on campus because of its specific fire alarm system. According to Robert McCoy, a technician with Physical Plant, Brockman’s alarm system activates a general alarm that calls the fire department each time it goes off.

“(Brockman) was the first dorm, and at the time, that was code,” McCoy noted.

This contrasts the system in other dorms, when only campus police are alerted.

“Kuhlman, Fenwick, Buenger and Husman were done after Brockman,” McCoy explained. “When a room in Husman or Kuhlman goes off, it sets off a supervisory alarm, not a general alarm, so campus police will report instead of the fire department.”

Because of the updated alarm systems, Cincinnati Fire rarely reports to other dorms besides Brockman.

“If an alarm sounds, anybody in your room in Fenwick can hear it. The campus police get a signal, but the entire building doesn’t have to be evacuated,” Associate Director of Maintenance and Operations Larry Prues said.

Because the system in Brockman functions differently than those used in other dorms, updating the alarms would require the installation of a new device.

“We would have to put sounder bases in each room so the alarm would go off in the room but not the whole building,” McCoy said.

The installation, however, would be an expensive project, according to Vice President of Risk Management Jeff Coleman.

“It’s expensive, between 60 to 70 grand for Brockman,” Coleman said.

Besides the system itself, the structure of the building makes an update more difficult. The oldest dorm on campus, Brockman was built during a time when the idea of popcorn setting off the alarm did not yet exist.

“The other thing that complicates Brockman is that the rooms are smaller and ceilings are lower, so the opportunity for some burnt popcorn to activate those devices is greater at Brockman than any other dorm,” Prues said. “Brockman was built in 1969, so there was no thought for microwaves or a lot of devices students use in the building. The system is working the way it was designed.”

Along with the discussion surrounding updates to the system come concerns from Cincinnati Fire. Each response expends time and resources, and it’s gotten to the point where the department has deemed it necessary to talk about the situation with Residence Life.

“They want to talk about it, and the meeting will take place this week,” Senior Director for Student Affairs Lori Lambert said.

Besides the concerns from the fire department, Residence Life also has concerns regarding students’ safety.

“We know if the alarms continue, students are less likely to take them as serious alarms,” Lambert said.

Currently, Xavier has not expressed plans to update the alarm system. For Lambert, the solution is to learn from the situation.

“All we can do is educate students,” Lambert said.

As for the students, while some Brockman residents abhor the thought of waking up for what amounts to a false alarm, others enjoy each other’s company while waiting to re-enter the building.

“I think I like the fire alarms because they build community,” first-year nursing major Sophia Whelpley said. “I don’t like the 2 a.m. ones, but I like them on a general basis because they get everyone outside.”

Others, however, like first-year nursing major Ally Rewers, dislike the disruptive nature of the alarms, no matter how much community they may build.

“They’re annoying because I’m always doing something when they go off,” Rewers said.

By: Chuck Collins | Guest Writer