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False Alarms Prove Rude Awakening

By Joshua D. Gottlieb, Contributing Writer

When the morning bell rings in many Adams House rooms, residents can’t always just roll over and hit the snooze button—sometimes, they have to wait for the fire trucks to come and turn it off.

At least twice in the past two weeks, Adams residents have been forced to file out of their rooms in the early morning hours because of an overly sensitive calibration of the House’s new fire alarm system.

Merle Bicknell, assistant director of physical resources in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, said that the triggers for this year’s alarms have been varied—including burning toast, programming errors and even an overflowing sink—and that not all of them led to complete building evacuations.

Students had to evacuate once at around 2 a.m. and another day at around 4 a.m.

The most recent occurrance was over shopping period.

Jefferey D. Dean ’05, who lives in Randolph Court, said that one of the early-morning alarms woke him up at around 2 a.m. on a Sunday morning.

The alarms seem to go off at “the most annoying times of day,” he said.

Not wanting to sacrifice precious sleep, students used makeshift beds in the lobby just outside the Adams Dining Hall.

“They were just groggy and lying all over each other,” said Eugene Chislenko ’04-’05

Vincent James, a cook in Adams dining hall, said one evacuation was caused by smoke from a toaster setting off a newly-installed detector. He said that the detector was moved a few feet away from the toaster after the alarm.

Zachary Gingo, manager of administrative operations for Harvard Yard Operations, said that problems are not surprising when a new system is installed.

“Early on, there are sometimes what I would call ‘calibration issues,’” he said.

Gingo said that the alarm system upgrades were part of a general plan to upgrade the fire detection and suppression systems in the Houses.

Including localized ones not requiring widespread evacuations, Bicknell said, there have been six alarms in Adams House this semester.

Bicknell said the contractor will check the new system today.

After the new system led to early morning alarms on two out of three consecutive days, Andrew C. W. Baldwin ’05 said, things have improved.

“I would assume they’re tinkering with it, because it hasn’t happened recently,” he said.

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