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The Student News Site of Palo Alto High School

The Paly Voice

The Student News Site of Palo Alto High School

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Breaking: Fog machine triggers school-wide evacuation

A Palo Alto Fire Department truck parked outside Palo Alto High School at 2:15 p.m., after a fog machine triggered a fire alarm and school-wide evacuation. (Photo: Maxwell Zhang)

Additional reporting by Sophia Yang, Carissa Tsui, Ketan Altekar-Okazaki, Maxwell Zhang, Kat Farrell and Kristine Lin.

Students and teachers are asking questions following a 3rd period fire alarm caused by a smoke machine in the Peery Center Gym. 

Palo Alto Fire Department Emergency Medical Technician Lauren Racioppi said the alarm was not caused by an actual fire. 

“We’re just resetting a fire alarm right now — [it] sounds like there’s a smoke machine in the boys’ locker room,” Racioppi said during the evacuation. “Not sure if it was a prank or not. … There was not an actual fire.” 

Assistant Principal Jerry Berkson confirmed the cause of the alarm. 

The alarms did not go off in the Media Arts Center, science, English, math or social science buildings. For classes that did not hear the alarm, Principal Brent Kline announced the evacuation over the public address system.

A second fire alarm sounded around 15 minutes after the initial alarm to test the communication systems between buildings, which Assistant Principal Erik Olah said was still being worked on. 

Junior Kasmira Lada said the alarm disturbed her art project and the evacuation process was confusing.

“I was really annoyed when the fire alarm sounded because I was in the middle of art class and in the middle of transferring my final art project draft,” Lada said. “It’s a hard process to stop in the middle of, so it bothered me and it kind of freaked me out because it was really loud at first. I thought that there was actually a problem, and it was hard to know where to go for evacuation because it was so sudden.”

According to Early Childhood Development and Advanced Authentic Research teacher Hilary McDaniel, the announcement over the PA system was helpful in classrooms where the fire alarm didn’t sound in the MAC.

“The intercom was helpful because in [the MAC], we first thought it was a car alarm,” McDaniel said. “We thought if it was important, they will come over the loudspeaker, and that’s what they did, so we started evacuating.”

According to senior Sonia Dwivedi, the alarm did not sound in her AP Literature classroom.

“We heard it [the alarm] from outside and then he asked us because we were like what’s going on?” Dwivedi said.  “And then [English Teacher] Miss [Mimi] Park walked out and then came back and said ‘Everyone get out.’”

Associated Student Body President and junior Julian Hong said the alarm was startling and interrupted his AP Art History unit exam. 

“It was very surprising when it went off,” Hong said. “I was in a recording for a unit exam, and it really disrupted the work time we had to finish.”

This is not the first time a fog machine has caused the fire alarm to go off. A similar instance happened in 2007 when a teacher was using a fog machine during class. 

This article will continue to be updated as more information becomes available.

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About the Contributors
Celina Lee, News Editor
Anna Feng, Editor-In-Chief
Anna Feng (Class of 2024) joined The Voice her sophomore year. Outside of journalism, she enjoys volunteering, listening to podcasts and spending time outdoors.

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