Fire alarm goes off for the second time in two weeks

Divya Sambathkumar, Print Managing Editor

On Monday, the fire alarm went off for the second time in two weeks and students were told to evacuate the building for about 20 minutes  The reason it happened this time was due to the building’s old age.

The boiler room in the basement of the school has a control panel that was installed back in 1974, when the original Westford Academy building was built. Even though small alterations have been made to it, the control panel hasn’t been completely replaced.

“In the boiler room downstairs there’s a control panel which is originally from 1974. It’s been a changed a little bit here and there,” Principal Jim Antonelli said.

Connected to the control panel, many fire pull stations are also old. Compression screws on these pull stations keep the alarms from going off, but one of the screws on the pull stations came off, triggering the alarm system on Monday.

“The fire pull stations are old and what happens is [that a] compression screw holds the fire alarm stable. The compression screw let go yesterday and when it popped open it rang the alarm. All that has to do with is the age of the building,” Antonelli said.

The head custodian is currently working on replacing the compressions with longer screws attached to a washer so the pull stations stay in place. The control panel is also being fixed and will potentially be replaced.

“Our head custodian, Mr. Griffin, is going around and putting in a screw that is a little longer with the washer on it to make sure that those stay in place and can’t be pulled out easy […] we are working on getting the control panel fixed downstairs and replaced,” Antonelli said.

Antonelli wants all students and faculty of WA to be aware when evacuating the building. In many school shootings, the fire alarm is pulled in order to bring students out into the hallways.  During the alarm on Monday, Antonelli informed everyone through the announcement that it was not a fire drill, so everyone is alert.

“If you recall with some of the school tragedies, some individuals have pulled the alarms to get students in the hallways. It’s very dangerous,” Antonelli said.

To keep the staff aware during fire drills, Antonelli informs them beforehand.

“Any time we have a regular fire alarm, I always tell the faculty because I want them to be in control,” Antonelli said.

The alarm that went off last week occurred due to the old alarm system and is completely unrelated to this one.

“We were having a problem with the older alarm system, so we fixed that. This [alarm] was something really simple but the big problem is that the control panel needs to be replaced,” Antonelli said.