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Not A Drill In the Commons

Evacuation causes concern among students and staff

At around 6:10 on Tuesday December 1st, the entire Commons building was evacuated and the fire department was called to campus. According to Rahul Navale, a Sophomore Biology major, “the fire alarm went off and the lights were flashing.” Soon after, Jake Stark, the facilities manager, was helping “to tell everyone to leave” and get away from the building. While students and staff were cooperative, there was overall confusion whether the evacuation was a drill or a serious accident had occurred.

According to AJ Irizarry, the Assistant Director of Operations of the Commons and the Safety Manager, the evacuation was not a planned drill. Rather, the smoke alarms had been set off and prompted the directors to usher students and staff outside. After the fire department arrived, the cause was determined to be a small fire in the kitchen.

While the specific details are unknown, the smoke alarm was set off because of “an incident involving a microwave.” While it seems like a small reason for a building wide evacuation, “the issue, which occurs frequently in residential areas, is more pronounced and consequential in a larger commercial facility.”

After the evacuation, students were unsure as to whether the building would reopen for the evening or remain closed until the next day. According to Mr. Irizarry, “during emergency situations the expectation is that we will be able to reopen the building with the approval of the Fire Department, Campus Police, and Facilities Management. Students are encouraged to go a safe distance away, and staff are relocated to the RAC to determine what they will do for the remainder of the business day.”

Fortunately, approximately 23 minutes after the evacuation, the three departments cleared the building and determined that it was safe for re-entry,  and business resumed as usual. Food staff were able to reopen the Commons food stalls, and students and faculty were able to use all facilities. In fact, (SEB) was able to host the Pokemon Video Game Tournament about two hours later, on schedule.

This incident seems to be an isolated event. Recent health and safety inspections have not brought any facility or structural issues, and there are no pending “threats” to the Commons

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