Chapultepec has a fire alarm problem, residents say

Chapultepec+residence+hall+in+2015.

Will Fritz

Chapultepec residence hall in 2015.

by Camille Dejoras, Staff Writer

Residents say San Diego State’s Chapultepec residence hall has a problem with frequent fire alarms.

Both current and former residents have expressed confusion and concern over the number of times the alarms go off during the year.

Communications junior Nicole Torres lived in the dorm from 2015-16. She said there was a day when the fire alarm went off seven times before 2 p.m.

“Everyone was annoyed, and instead of evacuating they would just put their pillow over their ears,” Torres said. “Eventually, by the seventh alarm, only 20 people were down in the parking lot, when 800 students live in Chappy.”

She said she knew plenty of people, including herself, who stayed in their rooms during a fire alarm.

“It felt like a big waste of time, especially when you’re trying to study or do homework or taking a shower,” Torres said.

Director of Housing Eric Hansen said the Office of Housing Administration has learned that some student residents were instructed to ignore fire alarms on particular days while university police were present in in the dorm.

“This was a mistake. All occupants should evacuate the residence hall any time an unannounced fire alarm is activated,” Hansen said in an email.

He said the leadership of the respective staff teams of housing administration, residential education, facilities services and university police have been notified and will ensure the proper training and policy is enforced. 

Political science junior Aaron Perez lived in Chapultepec his first year. He said he also heard of people being told not to evacuate, but he made sure to evacuate every time.

“(The fire alarms) became so common that residents, including myself, got used to the whole ordeal of evacuating the building,” Perez said.

Hansen said there were a number of instances during the 2017 fall semester when the smoke detectors and fire alarms were activated due to excessive smoke and steam generated by residents while they were using the community kitchen area.

“While the smoke detectors performed as designed, housing administration took steps to replace the smoke detectors with heat detectors in the kitchen area that maintain the safety of the residents and eliminate nuisance alarms,” Hansen said in the email.

When this email was sent on Feb. 2, Hansen said no such alarms have been activated this semester ever since the new heat detectors were installed.

Just five days later on Feb. 7, the fire alarm went off for the first time, electrical engineering freshman Sage Perez said.

Perez, who is a Chapultepec resident, said the smoke detectors and fire alarms went off about four times during fall 2017.

“The alarms went off twice in one week because people forgot to turn on the fan in the kitchen,” Perez said. “There’s no window in the kitchen, and all the smoke eventually leads into the lounge and sets off the alarm there.”

Hansen said the only time students are not required to evacuate is during a planned test of the fire system. Notifications with the duration of the planned test will be sent to all occupants ahead of time, he said.

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