Today: Apr 12, 2024

Fire drills could be super spreaders among dorms

Sam TapperEditor-in-Chief

So far this semester, the North Campus Midrise fire alarm has gone off three times, two of which were during snowstorms. I have been unfortunate enough to be at my North Campus dorm twice when this has happened. 

The most recent one occurred on Super Bowl Sunday, just a few minutes before noon. As I stood outside in the snowstorm in only sweats and flipflops, I came to question something: is this the potential for a super spreader? 

The North Midrise is one of the most heavily populated residence halls on campus. As I came to think about it more, I concluded that yes, these fire alarm evacuations could be a threat to spread COVID-19 at a rapid rate. 

According to the CDC’s social distancing guidelines, to effectively social distance “means keeping a safe space between yourself and other people who are not from your household.” As far as these instances go in my experience, none of this can happen. 

When there is a fire drill, or a room’s fire alarm goes off, everyone in the building has to flood the three stairwells in order to get out. Once outside we all standoff near the pathway leading to Jess Dow Field, and once the hall’s staff is given the “all clear” by the fire department and University Police, all residents are asked to lineup before they are let in the building-they are let in about four at a time. 

While waiting to enter the dorm, the rest of us are quite literally clustered together, with no one really enforcing any COVID-19 guidelines we see so heavily preached across campus at all. While I was waiting to get back in this last time, I was standing next to one student who had no mask on. And on top of that, he was coughing. Suddenly, the flipflops in the snow didn’t seem like the worst part. From what I could hear, no staff said anything about the lack of a mask from that student. 

As annoying as these fire drills can be, I bring this topic up because I am not sure there is no real way to effectively adhere to COVID-19 guidelines in these situations. Basically, it is safety versus safety. Obviously, we all should want to stay as safe as possible and far from the virus. However, if there is a fire in the building or the threat of one, I would like to get out as soon as possible and do not really care how I do it. 

At the end of the day, I never truly feel safe regarding the virus when the fire alarm goes off, which is a shame given how much sacrifice we have made already. The assigned capacity of our own newsroom is 11 people, which some university officials have said may be too much. But truthfully, I feel safer in the newsroom sometimes than I do in my dorm room. 

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