Wake up call

Juniors+Ben+Livak+and+Emily+McClurg+sit+on+the+track+after+the+fire+alarm+went+off.+Because+class+had+not+yet+started%2C+students+gathered+on+the+football+field+in+groups+with+friends.+%E2%80%9CI+had+to+make+sure+I+grabbed+all+my+stuff+because+I+didn%E2%80%99t+know+what+was+gonna+happen.+Class+hadn%E2%80%99t+even+started+%5Bwhen%5D+we+started+heading+outside%2C%E2%80%9D+Livak+said.+%E2%80%9C%5BThe+process+of+being+led+back%5D+was+actually+really+smooth.+I+saw+a+little+confusion+with+people+trying+to+go+different+directions%2C+but+%5Bteachers%5D+got+it+under+control.%E2%80%9D

Debra Klevens

Juniors Ben Livak and Emily McClurg sit on the track after the fire alarm went off. Because class had not yet started, students gathered on the football field in groups with friends. “I had to make sure I grabbed all my stuff because I didn’t know what was gonna happen. Class hadn’t even started [when] we started heading outside,” Livak said. “[The process of being led back] was actually really smooth. I saw a little confusion with people trying to go different directions, but [teachers] got it under control.”

A fire alarm blares through the school hallways at 7:27 a.m. Students rush to grab their bags, belongings and friends. Hurried steps guide them through building doors. Assistant Principal Kate Piffel directs students to take the staircase to the first floor, but they are stopped by a teacher halfway down and instructed to exit through the second floor.

“When you go to school, you should know what to do if something bad happens,” senior Siri Anugu said. “It was very disorganized. I made it out, but if I didn’t see my friends in this whole group of people, I’d be worried for them.”

Following a visit from the fire department and a talk with the McCarthy Construction Manager, Lucas Runge, it was determined that the reworked fire alarm system combined with new ventilation systems caused the alarm to go off. Officials believe a vent above the alarm, located by the water fountains between the main and north gyms, pulled dust or other material into the air and blocked the alarm’s sensor.

An unexpected fire alarm caused students to evacuate the building before school Aug. 26. Sophomores Makayla Hoskins and Kerra White walked back into the building, Hoskins walking in socks while holding her shoes. “It was wet outside, and I didn’t want to mess up my white shoes. I was making a TikTok, and out of nowhere, the fire alarm went off with no reminder,” Hoskins said. (Debra Klevens)

“It was a real alarm, not planned or staged. Usually, we go with a time period where it’s very controlled, like in the middle of a class and teachers know what’s coming, then we evaluate how people exit the building,” Principal John McCabe said. “When that alarm went off, the entire student body found the closest exit, got into an orderly setup and started to evacuate the building. It was phenomenal how well they did with no way to be warned.”

Standard school procedure states that students should evacuate the building and find their teacher on the football field when the fire alarm goes off. However, since the school was not in session, students reported being unsure of where to go and were told to stand in groups with friends on the football field.

They should tell us when we have fire drills, so we know when it’s a fire drill and when it’s not,” junior Dee Tummala said. “I didn’t know what to do. It was before school, so what am I supposed to do?”

Confusion from this unplanned fire drill led students and staff to wonder how the protocol would evolve to account for unstructured periods.

“You always have to be prepared no matter if it’s a planned fire drill or one that’s going off unexpectedly, like this morning,” counselor Jen Spotanski said. “We have processes and procedures in place for when it is a planned drill. [This was] a situation where it’s unplanned, and it’s a non-structured time; we did a tremendous job as a whole, as a school.”