New Alarm Test Eliminates Need For Horn Blasts

Freshman dorms and all Houses except Adams and Quincy will be spared the strident blasts of the monthly fire alarm test.

By using an ohmmeter, the Buildings and Grounds inspectors will be able to test the current in the alarm circuits without activating the loud horns, Zeph Stewart, Master of Lowell House, said yesterday.

The inspectors, however, will continue to test the horns semi-annually during vacation periods.

In Adams and Quincy, the present procedure must continue, Stewart said, "since they have somewhat different installations. But modifications in these Houses, too, are being investigated."

Whitla's Idea

Stewart credits Dean K. Whitla, acting Allston Burr Senior Tutor in Lowell House, with the idea of using ohmmeters for silent testing. The suggestion came after Arthur D. Trottenberg, Assistant Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, complained last December to Stewart about residents of Lowell who, bothered by the noise during testing periods, had disconnected the fire alarms in their rooms.

The tampering endangers both the occupants of the room and their neighbors, since breaking the circuit knocks out the fire alarms in rooms all around, Stewart said. In one case such a disconnection was repaired only a day before an actual fire in December.

Severe Punishment

"Dean Trottenberg pointed out that the Corporation might be compelled to vote some severe fine or punishment if the tampering continued," Stewart said.

After talking with the students involved, Whitla suggested the plan for the ohmmeters, which the Department of Buildings and Grounds has adopted. According to Stewart, Houses may activate the alarm system at the beginning of each year to show what the horns sound like.

Stewart said he was pleased by the change, "first because Whitla's suggestion removes an annoyance to undergraduates and tutors in the Houses, and second because it makes it possible to treat tampering with the system as a clearly anti-social act without the excuse which it seemed to have before."