Technical problems repeatedly set off Cornerstone fire alarms

by Molly Daniels

Ballard and McMillan Hall have had their share of security-related mishaps. In 1927, Ballard Hall burned to the ground. In 2010, it was discovered that McMillan Hall’s fire alarms were not functioning properly.  Recently the lock system for Ballard’s doors began to malfunction. Though Cornerstone is the youngest member of the B-Mac community, it has already experienced some issues with its fire alarms. These issues came to light during the Awkward Middle School Dance in February.  The festivities were interrupted when the fire alarms went off around 9 p.m.

“We do fire drills a couple times each semester. When an alarm is pulled, security is automatically dialed. My first year, Mac’s didn’t auto-dial,” said Baker, who has been the Resident Director for the B-Mac community for the past three years. This is his first year overseeing the Cornerstone community.

“Cornerstone is a commercial building, so the fire department has to respond when the alarm is set off,” said Maggie Meiners, the Ballard senator who also planned the dance.

Security came by and put the system in test, which meant that the system would check itself to make sure it was working correctly.

“That meant that it shouldn’t have gone off again, but it did. Something wasn’t right,” Meiners said.

They managed to contact the fire department before they sent the fire trucks back and let them know there wasn’t an emergency. Ashley Senf, a freshman living in Cornerstone, said the fire department was beginning to get frustrated with the number of false alarms coming from the building.

Baker was gone for the weekend and did not attend the dance. He said he hadn’t heard of any problems with the system in previous years.

Similarly, Senf didn’t know of any earlier issues with the alarms, but she said that there has been a definite problem this year.

“It was a very touchy system, and it just started going off randomly,” Senf said.

This year, Cornerstone’s alarms have gone off about 16 times. Senf said the fire department has responded to most of the alarms, but after the dance, they disconnected Cornerstone’s link to the fire department. Several resident assistants left the dance to patrol the building and keep an eye on things while the alarms were disconnected.

Late the next night, the alarms started sounding again, this time more frequently than they had in the past.

“They went off at least eight times the night after the dance,” Senf said.

A security guard sat outside the building and waited for a technician to fix the system, which didn’t happen until the middle of the night. The alarms continued to sound while they were being repaired. Unable to sleep because of the noise, a group of the residents went to an off-campus student’s house and spent the night there.

Meiners said that people originally thought that the effects of the construction combined with the heat and jumping of the dancers had triggered or damaged the system. This was not the case. It was revealed that there was a technical problem with the system.

“It wasn’t like someone was causing it; it was just an older, outdated system. Since that night, it’s been replaced or rewired,” Baker said.

The alarms appear to have been completely repaired, and Senf said there have been no further issues.

“The technician came out and fixed the problem, and it hasn’t happened since that night,” Senf said.

Contact Molly Daniels at mdaniels16@my.whitworth.edu

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