Claire Montgomery

Senior News Writer

A number of incidents occurred regarding campus fire safety starting on Nov. 16. At 1:36 a.m. on Sat- urday Nov. 16, Director of Security and Protective Services (SPS) Steve Glick emailed the campus community about the campus fire alarm system. He said, “Our fire alarm system is not working properly and is not expected to be fully operational until sometime [later today]. The individual building alarms will activate, however, no signal is sent to the monitoring system in dispatch.”

Glick explained that SPS, in consultation with the Wooster Fire Department, instituted a fire watch “in buildings that are occupied. A fire watch means that a person is assigned to a building to call 911 and SPS in the event the building alarm is activated,” Glick continued. He said that buildings would be opened for scheduled activities “as needed” during the day and that all open buildings would have a fire watch in place.

At 1:10 p.m. that same day, Nov. 16, Associate Director of SPS Joe Kirk emailed with news that the “fire alarm system has been fixed as of 1:00 p.m. this afternoon. All buildings now have fire systems in place that report to our monitoring system,” he said. Academic and administrative buildings were now on their regular weekend schedule, Kirk added.

However, later the same day, Glick once again sent an email to the campus community at 10:23 p.m., saying, “We are continuing to have problems with our fire alarm system. It is not known when the system may be fully operational.”

Glick continued that they were working to resolve the situation but that once again, buildings would be put under a fire watch and academic and administrative buildings would be closed on Sunday, Nov. 17. “Buildings will be opened as needed Sunday for scheduled activities,” Glick said. “Any building opened on Sunday must establish a fire watch.”

Among those who were asked to participate in the fire watch were Resident Assistant Dzifa Adjei ’20, who explained that she took a shift on Nov.17 from 1a.m. to 4a.m.“I was the point fire watch person for Wagner, Compton and Babcock [halls] which consisted of me staying awake during that time and stepping outside of Wagner (where I live) every 15-20 minutes to make sure none of the fire alarms in the other buildings were going off,” said Adjei. Kevin Cooper, supervisor for SPS said, “[The fire watch] was a joint effort between all divisions and departments across campus. I would love to list all of the community members and departments that assisted in one way or another, but the list is way too long. None of them hesitated at the opportunity to help out, and we were very appreciative of their support. This was complete teamwork and dedication focused on one thing — the safety of our campus community.”

On Monday, Nov. 18, Kirk sent a follow up email saying, “We continue to experience issues with our fire alarm system and are working with our vendor to address the prob- lem…” In order to maintain normal building hours, Kirk explained that SPS was working with administrative coordinators to have a fire watch for each building.

Regular academic activities were either canceled or relocated due to the malfunction of the fire alarm system. For instance, Ebert Art Center suspended swipe access to the building at 10 p.m. on Nov. 18. “It really didn’t affect me because the printmaking studio hours ended at 10 p.m. anyways, but I know that photo studio hours were longer,” explained Chelsea Brown ’20, who is taking a printmaking class.

“It just threw everything out of whack,” Nina Rushmore ’20 added. “I work in the Art Museum so there was one day that we didn’t go to work. I understand, however, that they had to do what they had to do for our safety.”

That same week, an incident occurred in Lowry Student Center on Nov. 21 around midday. “I was the responding officer to that call,” said Cooper. “There was a compressor in the maintenance area that had malfunctioned. From what I could tell, the machine had a belt that had slipped and ultimately created some smoke. Staff members in Lowry noticed the haze of smoke coming from within the maintenance area and notified other staff members who alerted 911. Someone had activated the pull station fire alarm and the building was evacuated while SPS and Wooster Fire Department responded and investigated. From what I could tell, there was no fire. This process happened exactly how we always want it to happen. Someone noticed a problem, alerted others and pulled the pull station fire alarm. Everyone evacuated the building in a calm and timely manner while alerting 911 and SPS.”

Glick announced that the fire system issues had been resolved on Nov. 23. He said, “On behalf of the Emergency Response Team, we are pleased to announce that our fire system is now back to normal operation and all fire watches are cancelled as of noon today.” Glick added, “We would like to thank everyone one for their patience and understanding during this time. We would also like extend our deep appreciation for all of you who have assisted in standing a fire watch during this past week.”

A final event involving fire safety occurred on Saturday, Nov. 23, at Mom’s Truckstop. Donna Yonker, general manager of Catering & Retail Operations in Campus Dining explained, “a heating element went out on one side of the grill. When the element failed, it caused a brief flash of electricity which caused the part to smoke.” Yonker added that the staff decided to call SPS and the fire department as they were not sure what had happened. “We then closed the grill for the rest of the evening. An electrician came in the next morning to ensure that we could safely operate the other half of the grill. Replacement parts have been ordered and as soon as the parts arrive and have been installed, the grill will be fully operational.”