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Fire alarm errors cost Alumni Quad students sleep

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Residents of Alumni Quad on the University at Albany’s downtown campus were kept awake by two fire alarms for roughly six hours last weekend, leaving many students confused, frustrated, and some without sleep entirely.

The first fire alarm activation occurred at 11:30 p.m. last Sunday night. The source was a heat detector at Alden Hall that had malfunctioned, according to Media and Community Relations Director Jordan Carleo-Evangelist.

The Albany Fire Department responded, evacuating residents, and finally determining that there was no emergency.

The second alarm, unrelated to the first, went off at 12:55 a.m. on Monday in the adjacent Waterbury Hall, caused by a third-party cleaning service that accidentally triggered one of the specialized kitchen fire suppression systems, according to Carleo-Evangelist.

Alarms continued to go off in Waterbury and Alden halls after staff tried to reset the kitchen system, which was “something they are not called on to do often given that kitchen fire/grease suppression systems are rarely activated.”

The fire alarm system is monitored by Uptown Plant Department, which then contacts the fire departments in Albany or Guilderland directly in the event of an activation.

The University at Albany Office of Facilities Management handles the general management of the fire alarm systems on campus, including inspections, testing, and maintenance of all components of the fire alarms systems, Carleo Evangelist adds, and all employees performing this work are certified alarm technicians.

The total reset process is more complicated than simply resetting a typical alarm, according to Carleo-Evangelist.

Senior Residence Coordinator for Alumni Quad Sheliza Samuels issued an email on Monday afternoon informing that, “The issues/cause of alarms were identified and a team of professionals are working very diligently on remedying these concerns.”

Samuels continued, “It is our hope that the alarms will not be activated again for the same reasons (unless for a drill or an actual activation).”

Omni Latimer, a UAlbany junior resident of Alumni Quad, was one of those affected in the incident, stating, “I didn’t get any sleep and unfortunately wasn’t able to go to class in the morning.”

“Whenever the fire department arrives they never let us know on scene what is going on,” Latimer said. “As a resident I absolutely do have the right to be notified on these issues.”

According to the University Police Department’s incident log, there was only one emergency services response to a fire alarm activation on Sunday at 11:34 p.m. in Waterbury Hall.

The report stated that there was no emergency found, and there are no further reports of fire alarm activations that night at Alumni Quad.

With temperatures in the mid-thirties during the alarm activations, students like Latimer were unsettled and upset after evacuating for multiple alarms throughout the night.

Carleo-Evangelist maintains that the safety and protection of residents is paramount.

“The last thing Facilities staff wants to do is disturb sleeping residents,” Carleo-Evangelist said. “But it’s also critical that we ensure those systems are properly reset and protecting those buildings and the people in them as they were designed to do.”

Latimer was far from satisfied with the response to the incidents, let alone the alarms themselves. “I don’t think that is fair to us especially now in the winter.“

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Phillip Downes is a student at UAlbany, Class of 2022, and the News Editor for the Albany Student Press.

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