Fire alarm = False alarm

By: Charles Lee

The clock slows as you shift to a less excruciating position in your desk. Maybe now it will be time to go…no, only 1 minute has passed, still 29 minutes till lunch. Your teacher is speaking in a monotone far, far away in the front, the room is humid and you just wanna get out of the class. Beep… beep… FIRE ALARM. Hurrah!

“A fire alarm is amazing. It gets me out of the class!” says Isaac Dilworth. Riley Szulc also agrees, “This is one of the downside of the new building. With improved fire alarm system comes fewer fire alarms.”

Students love fire alarms; it gives us time to digest the information that teachers have just presented (or just completely forget about it) as well as an opportunity to chill out with friends. So it’s like recess, except it’s more fun. Though many teachers complain that fire alarms take away their teaching time, for us, students, it is a heavenly time. But what about when the alarm rings during exams?

On the day of the math exam, 15 minutes before the exam was over, the fire alarm started and students were “forced” to exit the building. For many, it couldn’t have been a more perfect time. Y.C. and H.G, grade 12 and 11 students, said, smirking, that “my mark will go up by 5 marks.”After the exam, several students posted on their facebook status “THANK YOU FIRE ALARM; you saved me.” Many people think that the fire alarm will raise average math marks, but surprisingly, this may not be the case. D.O. and M.K., grade 10 and 11 students, changed their answers after the fire alarm, but later realized that their original answers were correct. “F***, I changed my correct answer” is all that they could say. Some others complained about the fire alarm, stating, “I lost momentum because of it. I couldn’t focus when I got back.” Some were not affected at all. Because the fire alarm rang just 15 minutes before the end of the exam, the final time that you can leave the exam room, those who handed in exams early either because they had given up or had already finished them had no gain or loss from this incident.

Some wished that it had rung not during the math exam but rather during another exam, and Calculus seemed to be the popular choice. Everyone’s perfect time for fire alarm is different, but one thing is certain: teachers were not happy about it.

Mr. Mendelovits, a math teacher, complained and demanded that all the exams be collected without giving 15 extra minutes to students. Despite math teachers’ demand to collect exams, Mr. Gorenkoff allowed the presiding teachers to decide on how to carry out this situation. Some teachers collected exams without mercy while others gave extra time.

Having her exam taken away without being given the extra 15 minutes, Rebecca Jacobs complained, “My class was the only functions class that didn’t get any extra time. It’s NOT FAIR. Even with denominator reduced, it will not compensate for the loss of time.”

Some students are happy, some aren’t, and teachers, of course, aren’t. So we now have to face the most fundamental problem. Why did the fire alarm go off?

“I’m guessing someone in the condo burnt their toast again,” suggested Rebecca Jacobs. Without a doubt, it was, like ALL the other times, a false alarm. It wasn’t even our school that caused the alarm, but rather a resident in one of the two condos. “I think the school should have a way to tell if the alarm is triggered from the condo or from within the school. If it comes from the condo tower, then they could see if we really need to evacuate. Either that, or they can just get a real fire alarm that detects fire and not burning toast.”

False alarms are a huge issue not only in this case, but in numerous other cases. Repeated false alarms may cause people to start ignoring alarms completely, knowing that each time it will probably be a fake. Even when there is real fire, people will simply ignore the alarm, ultimately leading to increased danger and possibly deaths. Further, too many false alarms are problematic as they have potential to divert emergency responders from real emergencies.

So is there a way to reduce the number of fire alarms?

“Not having people who burn toasts near us in the first place, maybe?” joked Nalin Rungee.

What if we install a system that gives us a first warning and a second warning?

“No no no. We don’t take chances. Do you know how many times people thought that the fire alarm was false but there was actually a fire? Besides, waiting until the second warning maybe too late to get 1000 bodies out of the building, as it takes lots of time,” replied Mr. Johnston.

According to the TDSB policy, it is absolutely required that everyone evacuate the building immediately if any danger is presented, and that includes a fire alarm, whether it is false or not.

Most students are realistic about the situation, “I mean, it’s a new school. It’s inevitable that there are going to be glitches. They just have to fix it. That’s all,” said Julia Schabas.

With no clear solution, the fire alarm will ring once again. We will have to evacuate during our presentations, tests, exams, or, preferably during our boring classes.