Swanson has 20th fire alarm this year

Swanson Commons has become infamous for its frequent fire alarms. As of April 4th, Public Safety had documented 19 separate instances of fire alarms causing residents to evacuate the building. However April 9th, Swanson residents experienced their 20th fire alarm.

Public Safety reports that 14 of the 19 alarms have been an issue of burnt food, a significant portion coming from the TLA side of the building. However, some have occurred due to burnt popcorn and other microwavable foods in Swanson East.  April 9th, Swanson East residents reported smelling burnt popcorn, which is assumed to be the cause of the fire alarm.

Residential Life employee, Mark Roth, says, “Swanson is the only residence hall that has full kitchens in half the building.”

A total of 11 fire alarms occurred Fall Term, making up a large majority of the total alarms that have occurred this year.

“You have students who are no longer required to be on a meal plan, cooking for themselves in their apartment,” comments Hilary Charles, head of residential life for Andreen and Swanson, “This is a time in a young adult’s life where maybe it’s their first experience cooking for themselves, so we do get instances where people burn things in the microwave, or on the stove.”

When discussing the frequency of fire alarms in Swanson Commons, some TLA residents report that, to their knowledge, no other TLA buildings have experienced as frequent issues with fire alarms.

“They go off so often that sometimes people don’t even leave. They are super sensitive so sometimes when we cook we put a bowl over it,” states an anonymous Swanson TLA resident.

“They’re typically in the middle of the night,” states Swanson TLA resident, Megan Forest.

11 of the documented fire alarms occurred between Fridays and Sundays. Students typically participate in more social behavior on weekends, which leads residents to believe the number of late night alarms that occur correlate with residents’ social weekend behavior.

The Fire Department does not always arrive on scene where fire alarms occur. Tom Phillis, Chief of Public Safety at Augustana, says that the Fire Department is always dispatched. However, if the Public Safety officers can identify the source of the problem and guarantee there was no actual fire, they will inform the Fire Department arrives, who will then return to the station without making the stop.

Some residents have been put into less than convenient situations when the fire alarms instruct them to leave the building.

“One time I was in the shower during an alarm. They usually are fake. I didn’t want to get out of the shower, but I decided to get out,” says first-year Eve Perdikaris. There was a gas leak. I was stuck, soaking wet, in the Andreen lounge for an hour at 2 am.”

There are nights that residents are abruptly woken up before a class or early morning sports practice.

“Nothing is worse than someone burning popcorn at 2 in the morning when you have a 6 am lift,” states first-year Forest Hisey

“Most of the fire alarms are due to burnt food. The frequency isn’t too alarming and I’m happy that we haven’t had a true fire in a long time,” says Phillis. “Fire alarms are one way to ensure student’s safety and false alarms mean they are working.”.