Alarm echoed through Seegers Union, both literally and figuratively, at approximately 5:00 p.m. on Monday, Apr. 17, when the fire alarm went off.
Students milled around in Parents Plaza for somewhere between 45 minutes and an hour waiting to be allowed back into the building. While rumors circulated that this may have been a drill, there was a very real cause for the alarm.
Brian Fidati, Director of Campus Safety, and Ellen Lentine, Director of Seegers Union and the Student Experience, shared that, “There was an electrical disruption within the breaker panel in [Seegers Union] 112. A dimmer switch in [Seegers Union] 113 tripped a breaker. The safety features functioned as designed and prevented any further damage. The disruption caused smoke and a detectable odor for a period of time throughout the Light Lounge area of Seegers Union. Rooms 111-113 remained off-line throughout the rest of the evening at the request of the Allentown Fire Department, out of an abundance of caution.”
They also expressed their gratitude for Plant Operations, and shared that students were respectful while having to evacuate.
This incident caused disruption to many students in Seegers at the time, including Java Joes’ baristas Mayu Lee ‘24 and Kailie Strutin ‘23.
Lee shared, “I was in the middle of my Java shift, making a drink for someone—I rushed to get as many drinks out as possible that were paid for, then headed outside. Me and a group of friends tried to pass the time outside by playing ninja!”
“I wish they sent out info about what it was but I was glad they caught it early and everyone was safe,” said Strutin. She added that she “left a caramel macchiato sitting, sorry to whoever’s drink it was.”
Most students were only minorly inconvenienced, “I was honestly not really concerned. At first, I figured it was just a drill, but after the first truck showed up, I realized it was serious. I knew it’d get resolved, but I was bummed my game of pool got put on hold,” said Mason Patrizio ‘26.
“It all happened so fast. I was eating dinner and then all of a sudden the alarm went off and they wanted us to leave. People were taking plates of food out with them, it was actually kind of funny. I didn’t end up coming back in because it was taking too long, so I didn’t even get to finish dinner.”
For students who might be worried about an event like this happening again, Fidati and Lentine share, “There are no significant lasting impacts on the building from this incident. As of Tuesday morning, all rooms are back online. Plant Operations will be working on replacing any damaged materials in the breaker panel throughout the week.”
Fidati and Lentine added, “To put this incident in perspective, there were 135 fire alarms on campus during the 2022 calendar year. As of today, we have had 36 fire alarms in 2023. The most common causes for these alarms are burnt food, steam from a shower, and dirty detectors; however, none of these alarms have been a result of an actual fire.”
Ultimately, while many students were left annoyed and inconvenienced, none were harmed and the issue seems to be fully resolved.
Cameron Eaton ‘23 summarized the event, saying “At first, no one really wanted to leave the building, but we knew it was probably something serious when so many fire trucks arrived. It almost became like a social event; everyone was gathered outside and chatting. We waited for what I think was about 45 minutes before we were able to go back in. Fortunately, there was no fire!”