Fire alarm malfunction in the midst of student anxiety

First responders came to Westhill amid the two fire drills.

During the first wave of lunch, approximately 11:38 am, there was an unplanned fire alarm that resulted in students, teachers and staff evacuating the building. A second alarm went off shortly thereafter, forcing a second evacuation.

“These were not planned nor pulled alarms,” said Principal Michael Rinaldi. “The cause was a faulty smoke detector. For now, the problem seems to be resolved.”

The fire marshall has confirmed that it was a faulty alarm.

Many students were concerned when the alarm first went off because of two threats found in school bathrooms over the past week that threatened to endanger students on September 18.

Two ParentLink messages regarding the threats were sent out by Rinaldi.

There was also a lockdown drill two periods earlier. Also a contributing factor that may have added to student anxiety when the alarms went off.

“When the alarm went off, I assumed the worst,” said Rinaldi.

Student reactions were varied depending on where students were when the alarm went off.

“During the first alarm, I was in the courtyard and feeling very confused, and everyone started screaming which made me scared,” said Gabriella Veseli (’18).

After the alarm, the majority of students returned to class, but some students called parents to be picked up, citing anxiety created by the events of the day.

“I was in class and the alarm went off. I thought it was a trap, but I followed rules and went out to the senior lot, but my anxiety really kicked in (when I was) thinking of possible scenarios,” said Kathryn Kopec (’19).

“After I found my sister and friends, everything was fine. After we went back in, and the fire alarm went off again, I knew it had to be a mistake in the system,” said Veseli.

Rinaldi, as well as other members of the staff, felt the students exited promptly and safely.

“I appreciate the way the vast majority of the staff and students exited the building,” said Rinaldi. “We were safe and we came back in.

“It is our job to get back to work and do now what we need to do as students and teachers.”

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