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New alarms have a better handle on student safety

Vice Principal Cathy Peterson points at the main board for Bear River’s new fire alarm system. Photo by Morgan Ham

The summer before the 2018-19 school year, Vice Principal Cathy Peterson and district officials worked collaboratively to install a new fire alarm system to improve student safety on Bear River’s campus.

Last year, pull handles could be found scattered around the school in a variety of places. This year, however, those handles are nowhere to be seen. This is because the new fire system no longer requires them.

Ms. Peterson explained why the system was changed in the first place.

“The old one was over 35 years old,” she explained. “It needed to be updated to add new features.”

She also mentioned how this new system detects both heat and smoke, and even balloons could set it off. She proceeded to explain how it works. The system is immediately triggered when smoke is detected, and from there it plays an alarm message.

“There’s a main board in the office where we can see which room triggered the alarm,” said Ms. Peterson. “I’d say the installation is 99% complete.”

Campus Supervisor Ralph Lewis added to Ms. Peterson’s explanation.

“Fire alarms are about the safety,” he said. “… There was a new panel that was put in that would better detect situations on campus.”

Bear River students explained how they thought the system was different this year from previous years.

“I think there’s a flashing light that goes off and it says that there’s a fire reported in the building,” said Senior and ASB President Maggie O’Callaghan.

“There was an incident last year,” said another senior, Marie-Claire Desplancke. “… Nobody could really distinguish the fire alarm from the active shooter alarm. Now, I think they’ll have a person saying, ‘This is a fire alarm,’ and it’s clearly indicated and sharp-toned. I think it’s a lot more defined now.”

Freshman Alicia Anderson explained how this fire system is different from the one at Magnolia Intermediate School.

The fire alarm system at my middle school was very loud and obnoxious, and Bear River’s new system is a bit quieter, which is nice,” she said.

“At my middle school, there were the handles and people were ‘accidentally’ pulling them, which caused unneeded panic and worry,” said Lana Raper, another freshman.

Ms. Peterson continued by explaining that the pull handles were removed because the new system is sensitive enough to the point where they’re no longer needed. Another reason for the removal was the false alarms. Mr. Lewis agreed with Ms. Peterson and also added a bit more.

“It’s necessary just simply because of the false alarms and the school shootings that had happened throughout the country,” he said. “It had become common that the shooters would pull the alarms to get students out into one area.”

Students revealed how they felt about no longer having the pull handles.

“There’s two different sides of it,” said Desplancke. “I feel like if there was a fire on our campus, it would be simple to just pull the handle, but 99% of the time, everybody pulls it down and it was an accident. There’s a 1% chance that there’s a fire. In my entire time I’ve been at this school, there’s been hundreds of people who just pull it. … I think it’s more comforting.”

“It could be safer so we don’t have an accident with somebody pulling it,” O’Callaghan said.

Ms. Peterson explained the steps taken to put this system into place, and her part in it.

“First off, we have to go through the state,” she said. “… We take the company we want to use out to bid and, if it wins, we use that company. It was a collective decision to update it, there was no one person who made the decision.”

She also reported that the new system improves Bear River safety because it’s much more reliable and efficient, and it automatically contacts a local fire department. It also greatly decreases the chance of false alarms. She added that fire drills will probably be performed about once a month to exercise the procedure.

A few students spoke out about how they felt regarding the new system.

“I like it, I really do like it,” Desplancke said. “It’s easier, but it should’ve been done a long time ago, in my opinion. They should’ve gone over all these problems a lot sooner, especially now with the physical climate of the gun issue across the United States.”

I like the new fire alarm system a lot,” said Anderson. “… I think it works well and tells people exactly what they need to do.”

“I think new is always a good thing, especially with safety,” said O’Callaghan.

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New alarms have a better handle on student safety