Despite the not-so-appetizing food and the lack of an elevator, I love living in West Quad Residence Hall. The convenient location and lively atmosphere make it one of the best places to live on campus. However, the joy of living here is ruined by the constantly ringing fire alarm. Since I began living in West Quad this year, fire alarms have been a nightmare. I’ve become accustomed to waking up to the sound of the blaring alarm at absurd hours.

From Dec. 10-13 last semester, South Quad and West Quad Residence Halls experienced a total of eight fire alarms. The first alarm rang in South Quad at 5 a.m., an unfortunate time for students who rise early and those who go to bed late. The following day, the fire alarm went off much after midnight in both South Quad and West Quad. Two days later, I received an e-mail from my resident adviser informing my hall of a rumor that the fire alarm would be pulled that evening to start the annual snowball fight against South Quad. The fire alarm did go off, once around midnight and again an hour later. The following evening, the fire alarm went off in West Quad for the fourth and final time that week. This time, however, fire trucks stood outside the dorm, and smoke was seen rising from a window. Even though a majority of the residents evacuated, some decided to stay back in their rooms. But are they to be blamed?

Students need to stop pulling the fire alarm. The repeated pulling of the alarm has made residents react to the emergency in a casual way, with frustration and exasperation replacing panic. Many students choose to stay in the dorms because everyone — including the RAs — knows it’s a false alarm. On one occasion, I even had to convince my roommate to evacuate the dorm when she refused to, because she had an exam the next day and was already suffering from a disrupted sleep pattern, thanks to the alarms.

Considering the recent small fires in South Quad and the Michigan Union, it’s frightening to think of a real fire in your own dorm. The only time that I saw fire trucks outside West Quad, I was afraid of an actual fire. But it was only a burst steam pipe that caused the smoke and resulted in fire trucks arriving at the scene. It’s unclear why fire trucks don’t arrive each time the alarm is pulled. It would be a waste of resources and time and I wouldn’t want that, but how is there a way for the fire department to determine the authenticity of the alarm?

The annual snowball fight, for all its charm, deserves a mention in this article. Everyone loves a good, competitive snowball fight. But when the snowball is a chunk of ice, and the target is someone’s face, the game turns nasty. I watched a girl get hit by ice on her forehead and rush to the Union with blood running down her face. She was just one of the victims of the fight that night, many of whom were forced to leave their rooms for fear of a fine or — less likely — an actual fire.

In an e-mail, my RA stated that students not evacuating during a fire alarm could be fined. According to The Michigan Daily article (In West Quad, a recent increase in false fire alarms, officials say, 2/15/2010), then-associate director of Housing Security described the pulling of the fire alarm as a “misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for up to a year or fines of up to $1,000.” Despite the warnings over the years, students in West Quad continue to pull the fire alarm. Four weeks into this semester, and there had already been three false alarms in West Quad, one after midnight on Feb 2 — the night of the blizzard when South Quad experienced three false alarms.

University Housing officials have to find a way to solve this problem. Despite the numerous alarms, Housing Spokesman Peter Logan said in an e-mail that Housing Security supervisors say there hasn’t been an increase in fire alarms in West Quad this year. And according to Logan, there are no problems with the functioning of the fire alarm systems. Students should understand that pulling the fire alarm isn’t funny, it causes a lot of inconvenience and it desensitizes students to the significance of the alarm. University authorities should try to curb this activity in any possible way.

Aida Ali is a senior editorial page editor.

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