Photo | Margarita Lopez
It’s 1:45 A.M. and you are sound asleep in your bed. It’s below freezing outside, but you’re warm under your blankets and dreaming peacefully. Tomorrow you have to wake up early to go to class and take a test. All is well until suddenly you are thrust awake by the unmistakable howling sound of the fire alarm. Adrenaline shoots through you. You groan resentfully and jump out of the warmth of your bed. Stumbling in the dark, you pull a jacket over your pajamas and find your shoes. The howling drills into your half-awake brain as you grab your keys and trudge out of your dorm room. You follow the lead of other students down the spiral of stairs out into the freezing air to wait for the fire department to give the all-clear.
The ArkaTech Editorial board believes this is no way for a student to live. However, this is the frequent experience of residents at Nutt Hall. Since the beginning of the fall semester, the Nutt fire alarm has gone off numerous times. Even before then it was a running joke among students that Nutt was notorious for being surrounded by fire trucks.
Though Nutt experiences this hazard the most, other residence halls have had issues too. M Street has also been known to have frequent fire alarms. Paine Hall has also experienced fire alarm issues, in which only one part of the building experienced the alarm going off. This was due to a faulty wiring system-another issue in itself.
This has gone from being a joke to being a serious problem for residents. There have been weeks where the fire alarm has gone off more than once, sometimes even within the same 24 hours. Every time students’ lives are interrupted as they are forced to evacuate the building.
This is problematic for several reasons. The biggest reason is that this creates a “boy who cried wolf” scenario. According to Arkansas Tech’s Clery report, none of the instances where the fire alarm went off in 2020 turned out to be an actual fire. Because it goes off so frequently without an actual threat of fire, many students may decide not to evacuate. In the case of a real fire, residents may not trust the alarm and face extreme danger.
One resident of Nutt Hall pointed out the legal implications this has for the school. “The fire alarms have gone off so frequently, people have been staying in their rooms,” they told us, “In the event of a real fire, if those people were to get hurt or worse, who then takes the blame?”
Another reason is the hindrance it puts on residents’ lives. Most students nowadays have classes where timed tests are taken online. Some students even have classes that meet online. Fire alarms are a big interruption to this, and could potentially hurt a student’s education. Not only that, but sleep can be vital to academic performance. Fire alarms going off in the middle of the night prevent students from getting proper rest. To add to this, during the winter it forces students to stand outside in their pajamas in below-freezing temperatures.
Not only is the fire alarm frequently going off bad for a student’s health and academics, but it is also simply unfair. Residents should not have to worry that they might get woken up by a fire alarm. In a commercial apartment building, a problem like this would cause people to move out and find a better place to live.
At the very least, they would demand to know why the problem was occurring. Residents at Nutt Hall rarely get the privilege of knowing why the fire alarm went off. Even Resident Assistants are given a limited amount of knowledge. This is unprofessional, and a serious transparency issue.
Some residents have even lost faith in Tech’s housing. “The fire alarm situation at the Nutt residence hall is nothing short of what I have come to expect from Arkansas Tech,” one resident told us.
The school should be concerned about the opinions of its students.
If it wants students to have a good experience and continue to attend school here, it has to start taking its residents more seriously. We believe residents are entitled to all knowledge regarding their safety. They pay housing expenses to have a quality place to live while they attend school, not to evacuate a building every time someone’s shower gets too hot.
Broken and sensitive fire alarm systems are a threat to safety. The Arka Tech Editorial Board believes that the school needs to address this issue because the safety and well-being of students should be the top priority above all else.