School Days Without a Fire Alarm: Zero

Students and staff were evacuated three times yesterday following four incidents


Brendan Zbanek

Students and staff exit the building through the North Gym Lobby after the third fire alarm

Fire alarms went off four times at Shaker Heights High School after sixth period Oct. 20.

Students and staff were evacuated from the building following the first three alarms, but were asked to stay inside following the fourth.

After the bell ending sixth period rang at 1:45 p.m., the first alarm sounded. The Shaker Heights Fire Department arrived at the school allowing students and staff to reenter the building after it was deemed safe.

Principal Eric Juli announced that the bell would ring to start eighth period two minutes after his announcement, but before the bell could ring, the fire alarm went off a second time. 

After everyone reentered the building again, the fire alarm went off for the third time, leaving students and staff confused. “I don’t know what’s happening,” junior Will Lang said while standing outside following the evacuation. “It’s kinda crazy. Shaker is wildin’ but I think it’s pretty funny.”

Economics teacher Bradley Bullard was trying to keep things lighthearted following the third alarm. “We are the Chicago Bulls of fire alarms. Back to back to back,” Bullard said.

As students and teachers entered the building once again, the fourth alarm sounded. Juli announced over the PA system that students and staff were not to exit the building, but to remain inside and report to eighth period classes. “There is no need to evacuate the building. Come back,” he said over the PA system. 

Confusion amongst students persisted when some staff members stopped students from returning to classes and said they had to evacuate again.

At 3:12 p.m., Juli announced the cancellation of after-school conferences over the PA system. “Students, we are cancelling conferences today. You are invited to leave the building at the end of the day, thank you,” he said in the announcement. 

According to Juli, the first three alarms were system malfunctions, but the fourth alarm was pulled by a student. The alarm system was switched off following the fourth alarm, and the building was put on fire watch.

According to an email Juli sent to high school teachers and staff, a fire watch is when security and custodians walk the hallways in case of an actual fire, but the alarms will not sound. If the school needs to be evacuated, Juli will announce it over the PA system. 

To put the school on fire watch, Juli received permission from the Shaker Heights Fire Department Battalion Commander, according to the email. Superintendent David Glasner has also been in contact with the Chief of the Shaker Heights Fire Department to make him aware of the issue.

“We were already in touch with the fire alarm company to schedule a time to investigate the system to make sure that it is operating correctly,” Glasner said. “We’re acting with urgency to try to address this issue.”

A meeting was held for teachers and other staff members in the small auditorium following dismissal at 3:15.

Since the start of school, there have been more than seven evacuations due to fire alarms, as well as one evacuation due to a threat. Freshman Corbin Werry, said that the evacuations can be funny until they start affecting school work. “The other day, I had to take a math test and I didnt have as much time as I would have liked because of a fire alarm going off,” Werry said.

In an email sent to students on Oct. 21, Juli said that the SHFD and the company that services the system fixed the faulty alarm system. “Two malfunctioning sensors have been replaced and these sensors were the primary issue on Wednesday,” he stated. “We anticipate these steps will significantly reduce the number of false alarms that have occurred in recent weeks.”

As more false alarms continue to happen, students worry that a real fire evacuation will not be taken seriously. Freshman Lowell Rich thinks the false fire evacuations are annoying and misleading to students and staff. “It’s kind of annoying that we have to skip time in class and that we don’t know if it’s an actual fire drill,” he said. “If there’s an actual fire and, like, the alarm goes off, people would think that it’s just a joke again when really it could be, like, a serious accident that’s going on.”

The Shakerite will continue to cover this story as it develops.

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