Fire Drill Prompts Holyoke Evacuation

Hundreds of Harvard employees were evacuated from Holyoke Center and herded across Mass. Ave. to wait in front of Dudley House yesterday afternoon after a fire drill.

The evacuation was monitored by members of Harvard’s Department of Environmental Health and Safety. Department director Joe Griffin called it “the best and most organized drill” he had seen out of the approximately 90 evacuation drills observed by his organization this fall.

Officials say the Holyoke Center evacuation was a routine fire drill, and that it was not held in response to any increased threat to the Holyoke Center or Harvard University, despite recent increased campus security measures, such as the closing of the parking lot beneath the Holyoke Center to the general public following Sept. 11.

According to Griffin, fire drills are commonly held in the fall at the University, and this evacuation was merely another in that vein. The evacuation did mark the first time newly trained “fire safety monitors” performed their duties in ensuring the rapid and orderly evacuation of personnel from the building.

The monitors are employees in the Holyoke Center who volunteered to receive additional training and take on extra responsibility during emergency situations. Easily distinguished by their bright red caps, which they don at the sound of the fire alarm, the monitors are each assigned a specific area of the facility, and seek to expedite the evacuation by checking each office and all restrooms to ensure occupants have left before exiting the building themselves.

Although Griffin said the evacuation of Harvard personnel went smoothly, there was some confusion regarding the commercial tenants of the Holyoke Center.

Au Bon Pain was not evacuated with the rest of the Holyoke Center complex, and Griffin indicated that “more work and coordination with commercial tenants” would be necessary in future drills or in the event of an actual crisis.

Au Bon Pain’s service continued normally during the evacuation.

Some other stores’ customers and employees, including those at Harvard Collections, left the building along with University employees during the drill.

Evacuated employees were treated to refreshments, including coffee and donuts, in front of Dudley House.

Following the evacuation, employees streamed back into the Holyoke Center with food and beverage in hand.

The fire drill involved coordination between multiple Harvard agencies, including the Harvard University Police Department, Engineering and Utilities, Building Security, Planning and Real Estate, and Environmental Health and Services.