The Paly Voice

Fire alarm raises safety concerns

Leila Chabane and Sophia Muys

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Palo Alto High School students walk towards the football field after a fire alarm disrupted class during 5th period on Wednesday afternoon. Palo Alto High School junior Andrew Shih, in addition to many other students, will have his testing schedule impacted by the drill in the upcoming week. "I was upset that the fire alarm went off in class because I'm going to end up having to take it [his AP Biology test] Friday, but I already have an APUSH [AP United States History] test," Shih said.

Palo Alto High School students walk towards the football field after a fire alarm disrupted class during 5th period Wednesday afternoon. Palo Alto High School junior Andrew Shih, in addition to many other students, had his testing schedule impacted by the alarm. “I was upset that the fire alarm went off in class because I’m going to end up having to take it [his AP Biology test] Friday, but I already have an APUSH [AP United States History] test,” Shih said. Photo: Nisha McNealis

Yet another fire alarm occurred during fifth period on Wednesday at Palo Alto High School, raising concerns about school safety among Paly students in the wake of the Parkland school shooting on Feb. 14, where the shooter allegedly drew students out of class by pulling a fire alarm.

The Assistant Principal of Operations, Jerry Berkson, said a smoke detector was set off in one of the school’s bathrooms. It is still unclear whether smoke or heat set off the alarm.

As per Paly protocol, when the alarm sounded at around 12:45 p.m, students filed out of classes and toward the football field, in often compact mass of bodies.

While walking out to the field, junior Zoe Stanton-Savitz worried about her and her peers’ safety after her friend brought up the Parkland school shooting.

“I was very scared,” Stanton-Savitz said. “I started thinking about it and I got a little frightened.”

Like many students at Paly, Stanton-Savitz says she has become desensitized to the alarms because of how frequently they occur.

“I think it’s very unlikely that there will be a fire,” Stanton-Savitz said. “The alarms are more of an annoyance than anything else.”

Since many students have become insensitive, Berkson re-emphasized the importance of walking to the football field.

“I can totally understand that [students becoming desensitized by the alarms],” Berkson said. “But, you still have to follow protocol because you never know what could happen.”

Berkson also brought up the importance of being mindful.

“In today’s day and age, you should always be aware of your surroundings; whether it’s at school or in the mall, always be aware,” Berkson said.

Sophomore Ryan Park also spoke on the frequency of the alarms.

“There’s no sense of panic at Paly,” Park said. “The first week of school we had three fire alarms, but I don’t think there’s any good solution to it.”

Senior Michael Huang also found that the alarm called to the mind the Parkland school shooting. 

“I did not think about that firsthand, but after a few seconds I did,” Huang said. “It’s very serious.”

Berkson said that the administration is always discussing Paly’s safety, especially in the wake of the Parkland shooting. 

“We did have a run-hide-fight drill,” Berkson said. “It just happened to be the topic of our meeting before the Parkland shooting. We’re always discussing it and the message and the procedures are always changing.”

Stanton-Savitz, Park, and Huang all plan on participating in the March 14 national walkout, a protest advocating for stricter gun control as a reaction to the Parkland school shooting on Feb 14.

“It’s a serious issue,” Park said. “When we come to school we expect it to be a safe place, and it’s not.”

Huang stressed the importance of continuing to actively discuss gun control and school safety measures.

“People talk about it for one week and then forget about it,” Huang said. “This is important, so we have to bring it up again to make sure that people don’t forget about it.”

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