Letters to Editor, Opinion

Letter to the Editor: Warren Towers fire alarm faults

Letters to the Editor do not reflect the editorial opinion of The Daily Free Press. They are solely the opinion of the author.

Warren Towers is currently implementing a new alarm system that I believe is a major safety issue — one that puts residents at risk. In the case of an emergency situation, the alarm sounds three loud beeps and a voice announces, “Attention please, the signal tone you have just heard indicated a report of an emergency in this building. If your floor evacuation signal sounds after this message, walk to the nearest stairway and leave the floor.” It then instructs residents to stay put until further notice is given.

While the repeated tests have been disruptive — residents were only warned of testing to take place on Thursday, March 22, yet tests were also done on Tuesday and Friday — the system makes the safe evacuation of a building as large as Warren Towers nearly impossible. Early morning on Sunday, March 25 at around 2:15 a.m., a real alarm sounded, indicating an evacuation of Tower C. As a resident of Tower A, I wasn’t sure whether to trek all the way down (with a broken foot, nonetheless) because I don’t know what my “floor evacuation signal” sounds like, and no building officials or RAs properly explained this system.

There is nothing confusing about the traditional emergency system: If you hear an alarm, evacuate the building. This system delays the evacuation time one whole minute, which is crucial time in the case of a large fire or an extreme emergency system. It also creates confusion for members of other floors or towers who are not in danger but still receive the alarm and must wait to find out where the emergency is. Extending the process aggravates residents, but during a real emergency, asking students to wait extra time before exiting a dangerous situation can cost lives. And without proper and clear protocol, students are left unsure whether to leave the building, putting themselves in danger.

Return to the old, tried and true, universal system.

Caroline Barry



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  1. This is bad advice. A full building evacuation is far less safe than a targeted evacuation and shelter in place.

    More drills and training may be needed but the solution provided here of returning to the old system because the new system makes the author uncomfortable is the wrong approach.

  2. The Letter to the Editor: “Warren Towers fire alarm faults” is right on point. I have lectured and written on the two main topics – specifically the inadequacy of the “Massachusetts Message” and the Cry Wolf Syndrome.

    Intelligent Notification Communication – Using Emergency Communications Systems to Alert, Notify and Inform Occupants and Emergency Forces located at

    The message fails to use well established emergency messaging strategies.

    Also my articles:
    “Campus Fire-Alarm Challenges: Strategies for improving detection, alarm and signaling systems to trigger appropriate emergency behaviors”


    “Fire Alarm Testing Strategies Can Improve Occupant Response and Reduce the Cry Wolf Syndrome,” Fire Protection Engineering, Fall 2003