U halts plan to remove Carlson pull station alarms

Kari Petrie

A plan to remove 49 pull station fire alarms from the Carlson School of Management because of several recent false alarms is now on hold, a University official said Monday.

The plan was developed several weeks ago, in part to address the growing frustration of Carlson School administrators who say the false alarms disrupt daily activities. Nine false alarms have been recorded since January.

Bill O’Neill, facilities manager on the West Bank, said the plan – which was only in the early development stages – was put on hold to see if the false alarms continue. He said the plan will be implemented only if the false alarms continue.

According to Dave Stringfield, University fire inspector, pull stations are not required in the building because of its sprinkler system.

John Anderson, associate dean of administration at Carlson School, said the excessive false alarms – sometimes several in one day – have created safety concerns for students and staff.

“Communities get complacent when they have so many of these occur,” Anderson said. “It’s hard to get people to Ö honor that alarm and vacate the building.”

Anderson said besides the safety concerns, the false alarms cause disruptions in classes and exams.

“We simply have got to come to some sort of resolve,” Anderson said.

Each false alarm costs between $1,000 and $2,000 for the police and fire departments to respond, O’Neill said. Although the University does not pay for these services, the surrounding community does, he said.

O’Neill said he is not comfortable with removing all of the pull stations, but many stations are unnecessary because some entrances have pull stations on either side of the doors and others are only eight feet apart.

Minneapolis Fire Marshal Tom Deegan, who said he was not aware of the plan, said the disablement of the stations could cause a “deception of protection.” If a fire occurs, he said, people might look for a station to pull in an area it once was, only to find the station is not there.

Despite the concern, administrators insist that removing the stations is necessary for the safety of students and staff.

“I want to make sure we do the right thing but we also maintain a sense of safety here,” Anderson said.

O’Neill said the business school’s remaining 105 pull stations will have plastic covers on them. When removed, the covering will activate a local alarm, placing more attention on the puller.

Along with these coverings, plain-clothed officers keep watch inside the building, Anderson said.

“You solve problems today in a way that helps you tomorrow,” Anderson said.

Many Carlson School students and staff expressed concern over removing the pull stations and the number of false alarms.

Steve Swartzer, a philosophy and political science senior and student manager of the Carlson School mailroom, said he was wary of removing alarms.

“The risks are too great just to stop stupid people from doing stupid things,” he said.

Jon Tepe, a finance and management information systems senior, said people might not evacuate the building because of the high number of false alarms.

“People don’t take them seriously anymore,” he said.

Angela Brandt, a receptionist in the building, said it takes six minutes to evacuate the building.

“I’d be dead by the time I got everyone out,” Brandt said.

Kari Petrie covers the Board of Regents and Administration. She welcomes comments at [email protected]