False fire alarm on seventh floor causes evacuation of Moody

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Student with disability needed help, and third floor could not hear alarm.

By Will Underhill and Sami Parman

Fire alarms sounded and flashed, driving students from Moody Learning Center at about 10 a.m. Feb. 1.

There was no fire. Smoke detectors on the seventh floor were set off by a blueberry muffin left unattended in a microwave.

Ironically, Dr. Nancy Roell was preparing a lesson titled “Mistakes Winners Don’t Make” in Room 700A for the Gateway to College program when she left her breakfast on overtime.

Amid much confusion, students were evacuated and the building was searched. Two life-threatening problems were discovered.

In a high school fire drill, students are taught to react on the suspicion of a fire, even if it’s only a drill.

Teacher education sophomore Audrey Gutierrez was in a philosophy class on the fifth floor when the fire alarm went off. 

Gutierrez has a walking disability and uses a cane.

The elevators were not working — and are not supposed to be used in an emergency — and students were directed to exit via stairs and escalators.

Every floor of Moody is equipped with emergency evacuation devices to aid staff in assisting mobility- impaired individuals escape down stairs. Only no one was around to help.

Walking down the escalator, Guiterrez had difficulty breathing.

“I know the building is old and that there is no way to know if the fire is real or not, but there is no system in place,” Guiterrez said.

During her descent, Guiterrez did not see any officers, staff or faculty to help her. Students were passing by without noticing her condition, and by the time she got outside, the all-clear signal was given to re-enter the building.

“It bothers me because something has to be done to help those with disabilities,” Guiterrez said. “There’s no way I can walk with my backpack and cane down the escalator. We need to be better prepared and equipped to handle something like this.”

While those on the upper floors flooded the stairwells, people on the third floor could not hear the alarms.

“It sounded like a muted car alarm,” psychology freshman Louis Hernandez said.

Learning resource specialist Leticia Alvarado alerted students and employees to leave the premises.

“A librarian from upstairs had to let us know to leave,” Alvarado said.

The alarms are supposed to emit a loud piercing noise and flash alert lights.

“The lights didn’t go off in here,” Alvarado said.

The fire alarm system in Moody and throughout the college previously was under contract with Simplex Tyco fire and security.They were responsible for installation, repairs and testing.

The alarms in Moody include new and old devices. Some of the alarms are five years old, others up to 10 years old, said Marlene Collins, scheduling dispatcher for Simplex Tyco.

The last time the college alarms were tested was May 21, 2007, Collins, said.

Paperwork with pricing and scheduling was sent to this college and after no response, the contract for regular services was canceled Sept. 21, Collins said.

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