False Fire Alarms Causing Panic for Students at Stoneman Douglas

Broward County school officials are trying to resolve the issues with the fire alarm systems to prevent further trauma for faculty and students.

False Fire Alarms Causing Panic for Students at Stoneman Douglas

A few of the false fire alarms have been attributed to students pulling them while others have been said to be caused by faulty systems.

Broward Schools are working to fix the issues with the false fire alarms that have been going off within the last month at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

The alarms have caused students to relive the trauma of the school shooting that killed 17 people, reports the Sun Sentential.

“My daughter has struggled a lot on the days when the alarms go off,” said the parent of Heather Chapman, who was at Stoneman Douglas the day of the shooting. “For her, it’s the sounds as well as the evacuations.”

Since school started at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Aug. 15, there have been two fire drills, five false alarms and one code red drill. Officials say three of the alarms were pulled by students, reports U.S. News.

Several of the alarms have been blamed on faulty wiring, including the most recent from Sept. 12. Officials confirmed it was the result of a faulty switch on a pull station.

“The switch has been repaired and the fire alarm system is again functioning properly,” a statement from the school district read.

The school has taken other measures to rectify the situation, like increased fire officials on school grounds to keep an eye on the alarms.

“The watch ensures an appropriate fire official is positioned at the school’s main fire panel, the statement said. “In the event the alarm is activated, this individual will immediately silence the system and the remaining fire watch participants will investigate the cause.”

Broward County has also confirmed they will be upgrading their fire alarm systems. They had planned to upgrade the fire alarm systems before the school shooting, but now, extra features will be included in those plans.

The district will add a delay mechanism that will allow administrators to determine whether the fire alarm is real before going off schoolwide, a feature not found in Florida schools yet.

Mary Ann May, chief fire official says the feature will be tested at a few schools but may not end up working out. The system only gives an administrator 15 seconds to respond.

State and federal law require 10 fire drills per school year and just as many “code red” drills to prepare for a shooter on campus.

Since the shooting, the district has asked for less required fire drills at Stoneman Douglas.

Stoneman Douglas student Maddie Zeltwanger told reporters that when she hears the fire alarm she immediately begins to panic.

“I try and get up and hide but then I have to realize that it’s probably nothing like February 14,” Zeltwanger said. “Your heart starts racing and your palms go numb and you start to get the chills.”

Maddie’s mother Kim does not believe the school has done anything to make the school safe in the months following the shooting.

“There have been a lot of promises made to us and that’s very disheartening for us as parents and definitely disheartening to these kids that have to live through this every day,” she said.

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Katie Malafronte is Campus Safety's Web Editor. She graduated from the University of Rhode Island in 2017 with a Bachelor's Degree in Communication Studies and a minor in Writing & Rhetoric. Katie has been CS's Web Editor since 2018.

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One response to “False Fire Alarms Causing Panic for Students at Stoneman Douglas”

  1. Liane Ozmun says:

    I would recommend a clear cover with horn be installed over the fire alarm manual pull stations accessible to the students. These are designed to be installed over a pull station and emit a 95 dB tone when lifted, so people would look in the direction and hopefully know who pulled it.
    https://www.sti-usa.com/series/stopper-ii/
    Video cameras are another alternative.
    Another thing I have heard of is that the manual pull stations accessible to the students can be programmed as a supervisory (hopefully with signage), with the real fire alarm manual pull programmed as an alarm, with full notification. Not sure of the code issues and details of this, but it may be an option.
    Of course, if it is a new system, a voice evacuation system can be used, which would not be so disturbing, and would provide verbal instructions.

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