Harvard officials said last week that a recent rash of false alarms in some House has encouraged a lax attitude among both students and the Cambridge Fire Department, despite an overall decrease in the number of false alarms since last year.
Although there have been more than two dozen false alarms since the school year began, administrators agreed that the number has dropped.
"There has been a significant reduction, said William H. Bossert '59, Master of Low ell House. Lowell was the scene of the most false alarms last year and seems to be suffering a high number again this year.
Out of every 100 fire alarms at Harvard, about three are caused by real fires, according to David E. Breen, Harvard's fire protection engineer.
"Safety has been compromised," he explained But asked about what steps the College should take to get students to respond to alarms he repiled. "I don't know what to suggest."
Harvard officials also expressed concern that city firefighters are not responding as quickly to the alarms. "Word has reached me from several different sources that the Cambridge Fire Department appears to be showing up a little slower than they used to be." Breen said "Frankly, I'm inclined to believe it."
"I'd find that hard to believe," said Deputy Fire Chief William Cantwell, when asked about the suspected slip in immediate response. "That's a luxury they can't allow themselves to have."
But Breen's concern was supported by students contacted. "It takes them a long time; last time it took them 15 minutes," said Janice I. Roca '87, a Greenough Hall resident. Greenough has had at least seven alarms this year.
Lowell was worst hit early two Sunday mornings ago when three alarms struck within 45 minutes.
"After the third one everyone said, bag it," said Eliza S. Morss '86. "No one's going out anymore."
"No one's going to take it seriously until they see a flame," she remarked, adding, "then maybe it'll be too late."
Lowell residents have not only learned to sleep through alarms, they eat through them, too. When an alarm buzzed last week during lunch, most students just sat in their seats and continued eating.
The poor response to the alarm worries Bossert. "Nobody goes out anymore," he said. "We have a very unsafe system. If we were to have a serious fire people would be injured at Lowell House," Bossert added.
Harvard's false alarm problem is a recent development. In 1980, the Cambridge City Council adopted a state law requiring the installation of smoke detectors in students' rooms and in common areas, and the College entry into 'the Core Oreintation' adding that the coure's Core standing will allow her to make some improvements.