Over the past summer, Lawrence University renovated two formal group houses; two major changes made were the installation of new photoelectric smoke detectors and sprinkler systems. The sprinkler systems are a vital safety addition, and we hope that all halls have these installed soon.
However, the new smoke detectors are overly sensitive. That might be an understatement as each of those have already set off multiple alarms. Spray paint has already set off one alarm, while shower steam has done so multiple times
Any time a fire alarm is set off, the local fire department must drive to campus. Additionally, Lawrence University pays a steep fine every time the fire department is called. As you consider that, think of the amount of times a dorm fire alarm has gone off from overcooked popcorn.
This is certainly an issue when detectors are set off by unmonitored food or novice cooking adventures, but at least those false alarms are created by smoke. With new alarms being set off by reflective particles of steam or spray paint, this unnecessary and avoidable cost is becoming an even greater issue.
Furthermore, as more false alarms occur, students have begun taking them less seriously. This could become especially problematic in the case of a real fire, and this will become an even greater issue with more false alarms
Every building on campus should have sprinkler systems and effective smoke detectors. However, these new photoelectric devices do not currently seem to be the proper solution. And as Lawrence installs new systems throughout campus, we hope that any new changes do not exacerbate existing issues or lead to easily avoidable costs for the school.