Magnolia Crossing experiences frequent fire alarms

Luc Stringer | Banner | Students return to their apartments at Magnolia Crossing at 2 a.m. on Sept. 23 after waiting in the parking lot for half an hour for the Riverside Fire Department to give the all-clear.

Since the start of the semester, Magnolia Crossing has experienced seven incidents in which the fire alarm went off, requiring residents to evacuate.

Joe Ojeda, Magnolia Crossing resident director, said the number of fire alarm incidents resulted from several factors.

“We found out the fire alarms were a little more sensitive than we would have hoped, but that is also a good thing by making sure we provide a safe living area,” Ojeda said.

Ojeda said the first few fire alarms occurred from smoke resulting from residents’ cooking, and the remaining alarms occurred from remaining dust in the alarm system from construction.

Magnolia Crossing, unlike some other living areas, also has a central alarm system per the fire marshal and the government’s current requirements for university living areas with common rooms. As a result, each time smoke triggers the alarm in a single unit, the fire alarm will go off throughout the entire building, causing all residents to evacuate.

“It is extremely important (to evacuate) because we just never know,” Ojeda said. “It is better to be safe than sorry. I know it is a huge inconvenience. I live here too, so I understand how inconvenient and annoying it can be, but it is something we all have to do.”

In an attempt to avoid future incidents, California Baptist University replaced the smoke detectors in each apartment’s common room to make them less sensitive. Previously, each room had an ionization smoke alarm, which causes the fire alarm to go off when smoke interrupts the ion flow between two charged plates. These detectors are usually more sensitive to flames. The school replaced these smoke detectors with new ones that set off the fire alarm when smoke interrupts a beam of light in the detector’s chamber. Ojeda said the new detectors are less sensitive than the ionization smoke alarms, but they are still sensitive enough to create a safe living environment. CBU also cleaned the alarm system to eliminate dust.

Magnolia Crossing resident advisers Katelynn Jarboe, senior Christian behavioral science major, and Jenavieve Santoyo, sophomore business administration major, help during fire evacuations by knocking on residents’ doors, guiding residents to emergency exits, ensuring that no one enters the building again until fire personnel allow it and creating a clear path for fire personnel to enter the building. They said CBU has been working to resolve the issue to avoid future fire alarms that require students to evacuate.

“We are working to try to figure out why this is happening so often,” Jarboe said. “CBU has been doing their best to try to identify and resolve the issue as swiftly as possible because obviously CBU understands this is not fun for anyone. I think they have been doing a great job of trying to figure that out and resolve the issue so that we do not have to continue being evacuated.”

Since Magnolia Crossing’s fire alarm system notifies the entire building if smoke is detected in a single room, Santoyo said students can take precautions to try to avoid more evacuation instances.

“If it goes off in your room, it goes off in everybody’s room, so just put the fans on high while you are cooking just in case,” Santoyo said.

In addition to using vent fans when cooking, Ojeda also said that students can help avoid fire alarm incidents by opening windows when cooking meals that can produce a large amount of smoke, closing the door when taking hot showers and remaining vigilant when using cooking appliances.

“Be careful and be aware of your cooking,” Ojeda said. “People should not be afraid of cooking, but just be aware and cautious. Make sure you keep an eye on it and pay attention to what you are doing.”

Ojeda said he hopes the fire alarm situation has been mostly resolved by the actions CBU has taken in response to the situation, but he encourages students to continue to follow fire safety policies in the future if the fire alarm goes off again.

“As annoying as it is when it goes off multiple times in a week, you never know if it is a real emergency and you never want to change it,” said Lauren Kennedy, junior business administration major and Magnolia Crossing resident. “Right now, we have gone a few days without the alarm going off. I hope the alarm does not go off anymore but we never know what will happen.”

If a fire alarm causes residents to evacuate again, students should go to the nearest emergency exit and evacuate to the back wall of the parking lot to await further instructions. If a student is in class when a fire alarm goes off, the student can email Ojeda for an excuse from class.

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