Malfunctioning fire alarm fails to warn PSU office


Two weeks ago, someone smelled toast burning on the fourth floor of Neuberger Hall, thought there was a fire and pulled a fire alarm. The building was evacuated immediately, but the alarm failed to warn some individuals in the Business Affairs office of the possible fire.

“Alarms were malfunctioning around the vault, behind the cashier’s office,” Ron Church, electrical supervisor of Facilities, said. “Now we have a brand new, up-to-code fire alarm system.”

Interim Director of Facilities Robyn Pierce said people had just been moved into the new office space by the vault that had previously been unused. After the alarm failed to sound, someone notified the individuals in the area and everyone evacuated the building.

Church said the alarm’s failure to sound was due to a malfunction that has since been fixed and will not happen again. He said rumors spread that the alarm had been broken for months, but asserted those rumors were false.

Pierce said the facilities department is currently upgrading to state-of-the-art alarm systems in three Portland State buildings. Alarm upgrades in Cramer Hall, Neuberger Hall and Science Building 2 will be part of a $220,000 project expected to be completed by fall 2008.

Pierce said the project is entirely in the hands of in-house electrical technicians. She said about 30 percent of the project is completed in terms of dollars spent and that Cramer Hall is the furthest along of the three buildings.

Church said the old fire alarm system that the buildings previously used did not notify Campus Public Safety or emergency response of the specific location of the fire. The new systems will indicate specifically which alarm or smoke detector was activated.

The Office of Business Affairs was unavailable for comment by press time.

Alarm upgrades have already been implemented in two PSU buildings, Lincoln Hall and the Smith Memorial Student Union. Church said the new upgrades to the three other buildings will be similar to what already occurred in Lincoln Hall and the Smith center.

The Facilities department is working on similar improvement projects in both Shattuck Hall and Smith Memorial Student Union.

The Shattuck redevelopment will be adding seismic sustainability to the building, along with heating and ventilation improvements. The Smith center is currently removing asbestos from the basement floor tiles of the building.

Pierce said there are no health risks to individuals passing through the area because the asbestos is removed during the evenings and weekends. She said asbestos is contained when it is solid and any part that is broken down would be vacuumed up.