By Austin Caroline
On any given day, the Youngstown State University app feed is peppered with posts from students living on and around campus irritated about fire alarms sounding in excess. It’s reached the point where students are creating and posting memes to express their annoyance.
Junior psychology major Cassandra Stanaford said the fire alarms weren’t as bad when they were more sporadic and it wasn’t as cold outside.
“It wasn’t bad when it was warm out, but now that it’s getting colder, it’s a little more uncomfortable late at night,” Stanaford said.
She also said she knows of students who ignore the alarms, believing they are “false alarms” more often than not.
Olivia Cupp, director of Housing and Residence Life at YSU, said she understands students may find the fire alarm system going off frequently as an inconvenience.
“The fire alarm communication system we have in place in the residence halls and on campus prioritizes life safety,” Cupp said. “I’m very thankful for ‘sensitive’ devices and would always prefer to be safe than sorry.”
Cupp also said she and the rest of the Housing and Residential Life staff take fire drills and evacuations seriously, and they want students to do the same.
“We do try our best to educate why this system is a vital safety feature in our facilities. Life safety is paramount. This is why we also take fire drills very seriously and do these twice a semester in all facilities,” she said. “It’s our goal for students to take all evacuations — drill or not — seriously and not be complacent.”
Whether it is on-campus housing, such as Cafaro, Lyden or Kilcawley houses, or off-campus housing, such as the University Edge or Courtyard apartments, the YSU Police department’s dispatch office receives notice of any and all alarms. After receiving notice that an alarm has sounded, a YSU police officer is dispatched alongside the Youngstown Fire Department to investigate.
YSU Police Chief Shawn Varso said all fire alarms should be taken seriously and should not be ignored, should a disaster like the Seton Hall University fire happen at YSU.
In 2000, there was a fire that affected a freshman residence hall at Seton Hall in New Jersey. Two students, in a misguided prank, lit a banner on fire in one of the university’s freshman residence halls, named Boland Hall. The duo wanted to set off the hall’s smoke alarms and force everyone outside in the 20-degree weather. They believed this was the perfect prank because the hall had gone through several years of false fire alarms.
However, because of the hall’s history of “false alarms,” many students did not take the alarms seriously that night. By the time the students realized there was actually a fire happening in the hall, the fire was already blazing and students scrambled to get out of the building. The fire led to the deaths of three students who were not able to make it out in time, and it also led to the serious injuries of an additional 56 students, firefighters and police officers as they tried to fight or escape the blaze.
“When these alarms get set off, it’s imperative that everyone take it seriously,” Varso said. “They should evacuate the building when they hear these alarms go off because you never know what that alarm is.”