About 31% of home cooking fires start because of unattended cooking equipment according to the National Fire Protection Association. Graphic by Riley Herendeen.


Shrill, ear-splitting alarms sound in the middle of the night, and the fire alarm in Brenden Fisher’s room starts flashing red lights. But Fisher does not move. It is just another night living at Chapman Grand.

Since last year — the first year the apartment complex was used as housing — students reported hearing many fire alarms and being forced to evacuate early in the morning and late at night. Fire and Life Safety does not have official numbers, but Mark Davis, the Fire and Life Safety manager, says there have been six alarms at Chapman Grand this semester.

Fisher, a junior strategic and corporate communications major, moved into his single apartment in Chapman Grand this August and says he has experienced multiple alarms.

“At this point, it feels pointless to get out of bed and walk downstairs to stand in the cold outside,” Fisher said. “I know it’s bad not to evacuate, but they always seem to be false alarms.”

Lorig Yaghsezian, a senior political science major who has lived on the fourth floor of Chapman Grand for two years, says she also ignores the alarms.

“There was one time last year when I was sound asleep and around 2 a.m., and the fire alarms went off and nearly gave me a heart attack,” Yaghsezian said. “Everyone was in a crowd outside the apartments in their pajamas.”

Now Yaghsezian waits it out in her apartment until the alarms stop.

Although Fire and Life Safety would not give out the specific times and dates of when the fire alarms have gone off, Davis said there have been five “unwanted alarms” as well as one planned alarm this year.

Dave Sundby, the director of Residence Life, said there was an instance this year when the fire alarm went off three times within one hour.

Students like Heaven Wong, a senior psychology major and current resident advisor at Chapman Grand, said she felt like the alarm has gone off “about 10 times so far this year”.

Despite the confusion and disagreement about the frequency of fire alarms going off, according to both Davis and Sundby, the source of the alarms is clear: the residents.

“We are not finding a regular pattern of malfunction, but a regular pattern of the alarms functioning correctly,” Sundby said. “The cause is just student behaviors.”

Student behaviors like vaping, smoking, and cooking set off alarms the most often according to Sundby.

Sundby also sees residents at Chapman Grand not evacuating their apartments when fire alarms go off.

“I wish students would choose to evacuate even though yes, it is inconvenient, annoying and sometimes incredible disruptive,” said Sundby. “I understand people are becoming desensitized to the alarms, but it is dangerous to ignore them.”

Heaven Wong says that as a resident advisor, she sees first-hand that residents do not evacuate and sometimes even drive away.

“People get in their cars and zoom out of the parking structure,” Wong said. “It’s frustrating because they don’t understand that there could be something actually wrong.”

On Oct. 13, at around 9:30 a.m., the Chapman Grand staff sent an email to every resident saying that they would be conducting a building-wide fire drill sometime that month.

According to the email, residents needed to evacuate the building immediately after hearing the fire alarm and leave via the emergency exits on each floor. From there, residents needed to proceed to the park located on the northeast corner of the building.

Davis says that residents are expected to evacuate per California Code of Regulations and the Chapman Student Conduct Code. He also suggests that students do not leave the building in their car and try to drive away.

“Vehicles attempting to leave can hamper the efforts of fire department vehicles which need to stage along the drives outside the buildings,” Davis said.

Sundby says that the many alarms can create a “boy who cried wolf” phenomenon, but urges students to evacuate for their safety.

“I would be really sad if someone who could have easily evacuated were harmed in a fire incident, whether that is something as serious as death or something like smoke inhalation,” said Sundby.

Gracie Fleischman
+ posts

Write a Comment