Circle Apartments see increase in fire alarm activation
The 2021-2022 academic year at Ithaca College began with 19 fire alarms going off at Circle Apartments throughout September.
In an email sent Sept. 23 to residents of Circles, Megan Williams, deputy director of personnel and programs at the Office of Residential Life, said 16 of the 19 alarms occurred due to the burning of food on the Cook, in the oven or microwave, and that more fire alarms could potentially prompt the Ithaca Fire Department to launch an investigation into the college. The Circles welcome juniors and seniors, many of whom are living alone for the first time. The apartments are fully furnished and have a kitchen equipped with large electrical appliances, including a dishwasher.
Junior Julia Spruance has stated that she is in her second semester and that she lives at Circles. She said living in the apartments here created a much more positive space for her and her roommates, as they had their own kitchens, compared to living in the dorms, where they had to eat in the mess rooms.
“We honestly hated food, and two of my roommates have food allergies and struggled to find food they could actually eat in mess rooms,” Spruance said. “So by having access to our kitchen, we are able to prepare some really good and healthy food that couldn’t be found in the dining rooms. ”
Spruance and his roommates did not set off any alarms themselves, but were woken up twice this semester by fire alarms in their apartment building.
“It’s really annoying to be woken up in such an abrupt way,” Spruance said. “When a fire alarm goes off in one of the apartments in a building, everyone’s alarm goes off. “
Junior Mercedesz Stumpf is living in Circles for the first time and said she and her roommates all cook their own meals.
“It’s the cheapest and healthiest option,” Stumpf said.
Stumpf never personally set off a fire alarm, but said his roommate did it while cooking. Stumpf said she was negatively affected by this academic year’s fire alarms.
“Fire alarms are very stressful for my roommate and I,” Stumpf said. “She has a cat, and it’s always a struggle to save him because he’s scared.”
A high number of fire alarms is typical for the early college years. Tim Ryan, deputy director of environmental health and safety, said while the numbers may be up a bit from previous years, they are pretty much on track.
The alarms were also triggered due to the build-up of steam from the hot showers. Ryan said circles has also had two fire alarms this semester due to a short circuit.
“After a device has received steam from a shower several times, it can develop what we call a short,” Ryan said. “If the short circuit goes the wrong way, it will trigger the alarm.”
This is not a college specific problem. Institutions across the country are facing issues such as burnt popcorn and steamy showers. In 2019, the Ball State University Police Department do one Facebook post which gave cooking tips to students.
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) is a self-funded, global, nonprofit organization dedicated to eliminating death, injury, economic and property loss from fires, electrical hazards, and related hazards. According to the NFPA, about six out of seven dormitory fires are started by cooking. Reported fires in dormitory-type buildings were related to cooking 87% of the time. They also found that September and October had the highest rate of dormitory fires.
Junior Matt Fabian said it may take a few weeks to figure out how to cook properly on your own.
“It’s like anything, it’s new so everyone’s going to have to take some time to learn to get into the routine of things,” said Fabian. “Like having a basic idea of what to cook and how to cook it. A few weeks and you’re pretty much good to go.
Fabian said he doesn’t have a meal plan, which he says is common for people living in circles. Students who live Circles are not required to have a meal plan. They are offered an apartment in the suburbs and on campus meal plan which consists of 5 dining room scans per week and $ 400 in Bomber Bucks.
“The people at Circles don’t have a meal plan, so they mostly rely on cooking in the kitchen,” Fabian said. “The kitchen is the main source of food. Like me personally, I cook all my things or I go to a restaurant.
In order to learn from these mistakes, Residential Life and Environmental Health and Safety stress the importance of using the exhaust vent above the stove. The exhaust vent helps to remove excess heat and smoke.
“If you’re going to cook, make sure your hood is on and make sure it’s working properly,” Ryan said. “If it is not working properly, you must file a meeting request to have it repaired.
The department also advises cooking at a lower setting, never leaving food unattended while cooking, cleaning the drip pan under the heating coils on the stove, cleaning the heating coil itself., and always using the fan while showering.
“Public safety officers will respond 24/7,” Ryan said. “We generally have two agents who answer at all times and at the same time the fire department is called and they start their intervention either from the barracks itself by the back entrance of the college, or most of the time , they send a unit from downtown. . “