Fire alarms stall classes

Fire alarm
Students converge on the football field during the start of first period. The fire alarm that went off this morning coincided with rain, causing students to seek shelter from the weather. “I had an umbrella so it wasn’t that bad, but a lot of other people didn’t have anything so they were just freezing,” freshman Sophie Relman said. “I had band [first period] so we missed a lot of time that we could have spent practicing.” Photo: Emily Hwang.
Two fire alarms disturbed Palo Alto High School students and staff today during first and third period.

A false fire alarm halted first period classes for over 15 minutes at 8:06 a.m., and a second alarm occurred at 11:02 a.m. before promptly turning off. According to Assistant Principal Jerry Berkson, construction workers in the Performing Arts Center accidentally triggered both alarms.

The first fire alarm went off before school started, forcing bewildered students to line up on the football field during the morning rain.

“It was raining outside and the construction workers didn’t evacuate, so I was suspicious that a student pulled the alarm as a prank or to avoid their first period,” junior Annabelle Hu said. “I was pretty miserable in the rain. … It was a monumental waste of time.”

Junior Gaby Pelayo was recording a presentation in her third period Advanced Placement Spanish Language class when the fire alarm interrupted midway — ruining the recording. With the AP Spanish exam less than two weeks away, Pelayo says she feels the alarm was untimely.

“We were in the middle of doing practice for AP Spanish test this coming May,” Pelayo said. “It was a bit annoying as it disrupted our time in class and our practice. All fire alarms are a hassle but considering the [AP] tests are around the corner, our classes need to be as productive as possible.”

While today’s alarms were accidental occurrences, Paly is not a new victim of false alarms. Approximately six fire alarms have disrupted classes this school year, according to Berkson.

Berkson says that since fire alarms have occurred frequently, some students might be caught off guard in the case of an actual fire in the future.

“When it does happen, hopefully everyone is prepared and takes it seriously,” Berkson said.

Berkson debunked suspicions that the first fire alarm had been caused by a cooking mishap in the Media Arts Center, stating that the administration’s switchboard showed that the alarm was triggered elsewhere.

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