Residents ignoring fire alarms |

Residents ignoring fire alarms

J.K. Perry

EAGLE COUNTY – The fire alarm screams, and workers ignore the sirens, going about their daily chores.Several workers in the valley admitted to remaining at their desks when the fire alarm sounds, although none cared to comment for this story.People often fail to evacuate commercial buildings in the case of false alarm, a bad and dangerous habit, some valley fire officials said. Perhaps remembering childhood lessons might help the situation, said Chief Charlie Moore of the Eagle River Fire Protection district.”Remember in the third grade when the alarm went off there wasn’t any choice” but to evacuate, Moore said. “Maybe some of the best lessons we learned were in kindergarten and first grade.”Something happened in the years between childhood, when kids were constantly bombarded with fire drills, and adulthood. “We get busy doing other things – you know how American life is,” Vail Fire Chief John Gulick said.Complacency and work get in the way of getting up and walking out the front door.”We’re too busy doing other things, we don’t believe there’s a fire until we smell smoke,” Gulick said. “(An alarm) is just another moment of distraction.”In addition, numerous false alarms at the same location desensitize people, Moore said.”The more false alarms there are, the less likely they are to evacuate,” Moore said.Maintenance workers need to ensure alarm systems are working properly to decrease the number of false alarms, Moore said. Newer advanced systems are already minimizing false alarms activated by such things as cigar and cigarette smoke, he said.”As false alarms continue to drop … people will pay more attention to fire alarms,” Moore said.Logistical nightmareHotel guests sometimes stay in their rooms, or they evacuate, then run back to grab personal belongings such as medication or warm clothes, Gulick said.The fire alarms at Sonnenalp Resort of Vail often sound because of construction, Manager Thad Ellis said. Initially, a speaker announcement is made instructing guests to stay in their rooms, he said.”A lot of people on vacation probably figure we’ll call them if they need to leave,” Ellis saidIndeed they do. In the event of a real fire, another announcement tells guest to exit the building, using stairwells to descend, Ellis said.If hotel guests don’t evacuate in a real fire, it can create a logistical problem for the Vail Fire Department, which normally sends three or four firefighters on a fire call.”Three firefighters when there’s 600 guests in a lodge, that’s quite a task,” Gulick said. “We rely heavily on the hotel staff” to get guests out.Stay or go now?Gulick and Moore differ slightly on the process of building evacuation.”The best thing for anybody to do – it’s designed to notify you – is to leave the building for their own safety,” Gulick said.”I don’t know that I necessarily expect that everybody – other than schools – evacuate the building … but that one or two people are investigating the source of the problem,” Moore said.In the event of a fire, the investigator should notify people to leave a building, Moore said. When a fire alarm sounds and Moore is in the building, he checks for signs of fire before leaving. Not because he’s a fire chief, but because his family once evacuated a smoky hotel.In that instance, he opened the room he and his family were staying in and saw smoke.”I said ‘Get your slippers and clothes on because we’re out of here,'” Moore said.Staff Writer J.K. Perry can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14622, or, Colorado

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