Fire Alert Delay Raises Alarms

By: Max Miracle, Copy Editor

Three minutes…

It’s half the transition time between classes, the average song length, and about twice the average phone call duration. It is also the amount of time built in between when a school fire alarm is pulled and when the emergency notification system activates. This gap between when an alarm is used and when klaxon noises and blinding lights are initiated is designed to prevent false alarms. However, some view this procedure as potentially unsafe.

Fire alarm delays are common at large events such as concerts and professional sports games in which blaring alarms and full evacuations might create panic and chaos. They allow trained staff to verify reports of a fire before deciding on protective action.

While schools are generally less packed than an NFL game, they also utilize fire alarm delays on a wide scale. According to Assistant Principal Peter Lake, they help prevent the loss of instructional time to accidental or prank alarms. After an alarm is pulled, staff members are dispatched to authenticate the fire. If the alert is confirmed, the delay can be overridden by the main office. In addition, the delay can be canceled by the activation of a second fire alarm.

Nevertheless, many feel that the delay puts those in the school at risk. “Fires spread quickly,” said Jonah Wilkes (10). “Students and faculty need to be warned as fast as possible so they can get out.”

Some opponents point to a bathroom-originated fire that occured on January 8th as an example of the delay’s proposed dangers. According to eyewitness accounts, the fire alarm was pulled when smoke was spotted, but the alert system did not immediately activate. “We only found out about the fire when we heard shouting outside our class,” said Luis Sorto (10), who was in the History hallway when the fire occurred. “Because the fire alarm was delayed, I got maybe a minute more of smoke inhalation.”

In contrast to these criticisms, supporters of the delay reference its usefulness in combating unnecessary evacuations and firefighter responses. “I think it’s necessary,” said Robert Martin (10). “It stops people from pulling the alarm as a joke.”