Residents ignore frequent GrandMarc fire alarms

Because of the frequency and sensitivity with which the fire alarms are activated, students have been ignoring the alarms in the GrandMarc apartment complex, a GrandMarc official said.

Although the GrandMarc has only actually had the alarms go off four times this semester, instances like the one on Oct. 23, when the alarms went off at about 3 a.m. for a period of two hours, desensitize students to the seriousness of the alarm system, said Tobi Sander, the GrandMarc’s director of community operations.

Sander said she doesn’t know how to get students to respond and take the alarms seriously.

“I’ve sent an e-blast to them before, saying don’t be numb to this because I’d rather you be safe than sorry … It’s a constant battle, really,” she said.

Sander said she cannot force students to evacuate because the GrandMarc is an apartment community and technically not part of the university. This year, however, the university is leasing beds in the GrandMarc because of the overflow of freshman students. Sander said that because of that, the university asked her to schedule a fire drill in the GrandMarc, but the drill was canceled because of a sexual assault report on campus and possible safety issues of having people outside for an extended period of time.

Craig Allen, director of Housing and Residence Life, said students must take heed of the fire alarms.

“When the alarms go off, they need to be taken seriously,” Allen said. “If students don’t realize that, it’s not good.”

Allen said there is no difference in fire safety between the main campus or in the GrandMarc.

“Students have to understand that any type of alarm is serious business … Students have to take ownership for themselves, and they need to get out,” he said.

Sophomore pre-major Shannon Gomez said the GrandMarc’s alarm system is extremely annoying.

“I’ve definitely been desensitized to the alarms, the second time it went off (Oct. 23), I didn’t even leave my apartment,” Gomez said.

Gomez also said she was irritated with the GrandMarc’s management for not immediately advertising the cause of the alarm incident.

“I feel like they should’ve put out some kind of message of why it happened,” she said.

As far as causes for the alarms activating, Sander said the majority of past instances were because of construction around the GrandMarc. The construction of the Los Vaqueros restaurant last spring caused the alarms to go off multiple times. However, Sander said much of the responsibility also goes to students pulling the pull stations in the GrandMarc’s hallways.

“We need those to stop, so people aren’t numb to them going off … They don’t know if it’s real or if it’s fake,” she said.

The Oct. 23 incident was due to a tripped dry line in the parking garage. Sander said it was the GrandMarc’s longest fire alarm on record.

“I don’t know what causes (the tripping of the dry line),” she said. “I have a call placed in to the company to find out what causes that. My maintenance guy couldn’t get it shut off.”

She said that although the dry line is known to be very sensitive, she suspected someone could have tampered with the system, and if that was the case and her office could identify the perpetrator, Sander would file a police report.

One of the other false alarms the GrandMarc had this semester took place in August when a student was grilling on an apartment balcony, which Sander said was illegal. She said the smoke came through the student’s apartment and filled both the fourth and fifth floors of the GrandMarc’s north tower.

However, the most serious fire the GrandMarc has experienced occurred last spring and was caused by a lit candle, Sander said. The female student’s bedroom was damaged and burnt, Sander said.

“It filled the hallway with smoke,” Sander said. “Her neighbors got the fire out before it could set off the sprinklers, but at that point there was a fire.”

Sander said the only way to impart the seriousness of fire safety and the importance of taking the alarm system seriously was to reiterate the need for students to evacuate, no matter the situation. Sander said the GrandMarc’s owners would tell the students to evacuate immediately and so would she.

The GrandMarc’s fire and security company, Kings III Fire and Security, and vice chancellor for student affairs Don Mills could not be reached for comment.