Early Morning Fire Alarm Set Off in Building A
At 4:26 a.m. early Friday morning, Feb. 16, all students in New Gartland Building A were abruptly woken up by the blaring sounds of the fire alarm telling them to evacuate the building.
“It was like I got hit with a wall of sound,” junior Colin May said. “As the thing is blaring - [and the flashing light is] literally blinding me - I stumbled towards the [room] light…and I turned it on…[while] kind of rushing and half asleep.”
Multiple security officers said that someone sprayed a fire extinguisher against a wall, and then along that hallway, on the third floor near the elevators. As of about 4:30 p.m. on Friday - 12 hours after the fire alarm went off - John Blaisdell, director of safety & security at Marist College, said “we have identified a student responsible for discharging the extinguisher and they wiil [sic] be referred to Student Conduct as their actions were not to extinguish a fire.”
Except for the residual powder left from where the fire extinguisher had been aimed at the wall, no other damage has been done, according to Blaisdell. Nevertheless, the powder and haze from the fire extinguisher set the smoke alarms in the hallway off, which then, in turn, alerted security.
A few students who live on the third floor mentioned that they had seen what looked like smoke, but didn’t smell like smoke. May, who lives on the third floor, said that while the smoke didn’t affect his ability to breathe, it was a sobering experience.
“It was intense because on the third floor you could see there was actual smoke as I was leaving the building,” May said. “As I was turning to go towards the stairs...it was definitely smoky…[it was like] walking into a layer of smoke.”
Another security officer mentioned that since the fire extinguisher, had been sprayed around the hallway, it left a lingering haze in the area, which is likely what the students saw and thought to be smoke.
As students filed out of all exits of the building into the rainy and cold morning, three security officers headed inside. Most resident were just wearing just pajamas, with coats and blankets hastily thrown on as they rushed outside. “The instincts kicked in and I only grabbed my sweater,” junior Juliann Negron said. “I thought there was some bad emergency - like somebody in the building who wasn’t supposed to be.”
Understandably, most, if not all, students were upset that they had been unexpectedly woken up and jolted from their sleep in the very early morning hours. “I was not happy,” junior Megan Nickel said. "It's frustrating that it happened during a weeknight.”
Many students immediately headed into the first floor lounge of New Gartland Building B, with some heading into the first floor lounge of New Gartland Building C. As the fire alarm continued to go off, more students gradually headed into the lounges of buildings B and C.
Nickel realized it wasn’t a drill when she looked at the clock and saw that timing was way too late for a fire drill. “My stomach dropped when I realized it wasn’t a drill and I was trying to think what had happened and if everything was okay,” Nickel said.
Resident Assistant Denise Twiggs confirmed that thought when, around 4:35 a.m., she posted in the “Marist Building A 2017-2018” Facebook group, saying that “just so you know it’s not a drill! Please make sure you and Your house mates [sic] have left the building and make sure they are accounted for. I know it’s cold, you are more than welcome to stay in the lobbies of B,C, or D.”
Not long after most of the students had evacuated, two fire trucks pulled up in front of building A and more than four firefighters walked into the building. Around 4:50 a.m., the sirens stopped, but the firefighters and a few security officers (who had walked into the building while the students were leaving the building) remained in the building - and the fire trucks, lights still going off, stayed in front of the building.
Around 5:07 a.m., a security car pulled up and a fire extinguisher was handed to the security officer who had walked out of the building. The security officer in the car then drove away and the other security officer walked back into the building.
A few minutes later, the firefighters got back into their fire trucks, turned the flashing lights off and then drove away. Then a couple minutes after that, the residents who were still outside were waved back inside and students poured out from buildings B and C, all flooding back into building A.
The total disruption lasted about 45 minutes before students were allowed back inside the building. Since students weren’t informed of what had happened, May expected that they were going to be outside for longer, because he thought the incident was worse. “I was relieved it wasn’t as serious it could’ve been,” May said.
“My first assumption [when these things happen] is it’s always a drill or somebody being stupid,” Nickel said. "It was a relief...that something serious hadn’t happened.”