This is not a drill: Constant fire alarms force Scripps College students outside in frigid temperatures

Scripps College students Devon Ma SC ’21, Scotty Hagle ’21 and Valerie Jackman ’21 have had to bear the frigid early morning temperatures due to Scripps’ many fire alarms. (Eloise Shields • The Student Life)

The fire alarm in Scripps College’s connected Browning and Dorsey residence halls has been triggered nine times this semester, forcing students outside as late as 1 a.m. and as early as 6:30 a.m.

As a result, students have been woken up and, rushing to exit the building, found themselves in temperatures as cold as 30 degrees without adequate clothing and shoes.

Burnt food was determined to be culprit for three or four of the alarms, Scripps’ Director of Campus Life Brenda Ice wrote in an email to Scripps students. Two were the result of individuals smoking in or near bathrooms, and one was thought to be a scheduled fire drill.

The remaining cases are under investigation, Ice told TSL.

The facilities department will review fire alarm sensors, exhaust fans and humidity sensors to “ensure an optimal and effective sensitivity level,” Ice wrote to students. Additionally, cooking safety reminder flyers have been put up in kitchens.

Becca Mamlet SC ’22 said the drills are particularly troublesome for students like herself dealing chronic conditions, disabilities or sleeping problems.

“My condition means that if I get up before a certain time in the morning, my body doesn’t function well for the rest of the day causing pain, fatigue, limb weakness, etc,” Mamlet said. “Even though I went back to sleep after, it still affected me for the rest of the day.”

She said that smoking indoors is irresponsible and poses a health risk for herself and other students with breathing problems. “If you want to smoke or even vape, do it outside where it won’t affect others or set off the alarms,” Mamlet said.

Scripps’ policy prohibits smoking inside or within 25 feet of residence halls.

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Some students with disabilities are sent emails with a heads-up about early-morning drills, but these advanced notices are not widespread, Mamlet said.

Siena Hinshelwood SC ’22 is tired of the frequency of the alarms.

“It’s gotten to the point where any kind of beeping I hear, like from the door alarms or cars outside, makes my heart skip a beat thinking it’s a fire alarm and I’m going to have to go outside,” Hinshelwood said.

The timing of scheduled fire drills is based on when most students are in the dorms, Dean of Students Charlotte Johnson said.

“We are working on additional programming and other ways to ensure that all students are prepared for drills and in case of an emergency,” she said.

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