With the new school year starting, Berkeley High School has already had several fire alarms go off. Many students and teachers assume that the cause of these situations is students pulling the alarm to get out of class.
“I believe the main causes are the students pulling the alarm to get out of class or just as a joke,” said Mia Kumar, a freshman at BHS.
“I think the fire alarm goes off a lot because people pull it and don’t get caught or because people vape in the bathroom,” said Vera Libova Gomes, another freshman at BHS. “My teachers usually tell me why it went off, and it’s usually students’ fault.”
Students are, in fact, often the cause of fire alarms. However, it isn’t solely students purposefully pulling fire alarms to get out of class. Fire alarms also may be set off due to vaping and smoking in the bathrooms. Vapor and smoke can trigger smoke detectors and waste school time for teachers, students, and administrators. Additionally, construction on BHS campus is another common cause. Previously, this has included construction of the Community Theater.
“During my time at BHS, the most common reasons for the alarm to be triggered is students smoking or vaping in the bathrooms, a student activating a fire alarm pull station, or construction accidentally triggering a detector,” said Harrison Blatt, a BHS vice principal.
Blatt’s statement underscores the significance of maintaining a safe and secure school environment. Identifying the most common reasons for alarm triggers highlights the need for vigilance in preventing disruptive or potentially dangerous incidents on school premises. Ultimately, it ensures the well-being and education of students.
“The BHS administration is very concerned of the disruption to teaching and learning caused by false alarm evacuations and is continuously working to decrease these incidents,” said Blatt, “Some of the actions we’ve taken include working to educate students about the harm caused by false alarms and the consequences of creating a false alarm, collaborating with our Facilities Department, local fire department, and construction partners, and increasing campus supervision.”
It can be inferred from Blatt’s response that the school administration treats false alarms with consideration, involving a substantial number of collaborators in the investigative process. By prioritizing the need for discipline and responsible behavior among students, administration is working to prevent disruptions to the learning environment, maintain safety protocols, and minimize unnecessary interruptions to the educational process.
However, since students are not the only culprits of these alarm activations, other preventative actions need to be taken as well.
“Students or construction are almost always the causes of the fire alarm,” said Blatt, highlighting the significant impact of ongoing construction projects on these incidents.
According to Blatt, the school is exploring options to upgrade the fire alarm system, ensuring it is less vulnerable to accidental triggers while also remaining highly responsive to genuine fire threats. Vaping, construction, and students pulling the alarm are indeed contributing factors to the high number of false fire alarms in our school. By focusing on mental health support, infrastructure improvements, and ongoing education, our BHS administration aims to reduce false alarms and create a safer and more conducive learning environment for all.
“Fire alarms happen so frequently that, unfortunately, they are not taken very seriously,” said Dawn Williams, a BHS African Diaspora Dance teacher.