Three Fire Alarms in a Week at Nease: Should Students be ‘Alarmed’?

On Wednesday, Jan. 18 at approximately 8 p.m., first-year kinesiology major Chris Barrena was taking a shower in Nease Residence Hall. On a typical night, Barrena would be in and out within about 15 minutes. However, this was not the case that night.

Three to four minutes after starting the shower, Barrena was interrupted by a fire alarm. He was prompted, like the rest of his hall-mates, to evacuate the building immediately. He could only manage to throw on a towel before heading outside into the parking lot. 

Once outside, Barrena met with other residents who had also come straight from showering. This included fellow first-floor folks, some second-floor peers, and also a few from the source of the trigger: the third floor. In conversations among residents outside, most students were uncertain as to the cause of the trigger. 

First-year open major Aidan DeMarco said he and his hallmates suspected that the issue had to do with the alarm itself. Many of the residents, like DeMarco, were also led to believe that it may have been a false alarm because there had been a scheduled fire drill the previous night.

Therefore, this alarm was met with a lack of enthusiasm among students. Yet resident assistants (RAs) were still able to get everyone out relatively quickly. 

Third-year Nease RA and biology-chemistry major Jakob Vucelic-Frick said, “My thought was that the alarm was going off, and, whether there was a fire or not, that is our signal to leave the building.” 

Once all residents evacuated Nease that Wednesday evening, the search for the alarm’s trigger began. 

Nease East resident director (RD) Danny Butler said, “On [Wednesday night], we had an idea that ventilation might have been an issue with a noticeable amount of steam [from the bathroom] collecting on the third floor.”

However, there was also suspicion that there might have been an issue with the smoke detectors themselves, and, thus, the solution for Wednesday night was to change the batteries. 

Butler explained that once the alarm was triggered for a third time on Friday, Jan. 20, Facilities Maintenance had a pretty good idea that the problem had to do with the ventilation.

Over the next few days, the third floor’s congested ventilation systems were eventually fixed. 

Butler added that fire drills are performed once a semester, and custodial and maintenance teams perform routine checks once a year. 

He was also able to address a popular rumor among students at PLNU that if a residence hall burns down, residents are given free tuition and a degree on the spot. 

“That rumor’s been around since I was a student… no, it’s not true,” Butler said.

Butler gave reassurance that in the event when residents are displaced from their campus housing, PLNU will make accommodations, as hotels have been an option in the past. He also said that in the case of a fire, students are mandated by law to evacuate within two minutes or else risk facing a felony and a fine of up to $1,000 according to California Penal Code Mandate 451. For this reason, RAs and RDs are trained to assist residents in evacuations. 

Written By: Aidan Parsons