Students in Rhodes Hall were welcomed back to campus last week by two instances of the fire alarm going off within half an hour of each other.
Fire Chief Mark Howard said that on August 27th the Keene Fire Department responded to two calls at Rhodes, the first at 1:36 p.m. and the second at 2:05 p.m..
“The first cause was workmen working on the sprinkler system, who tripped it…On the second response, the dry system had gone wet, and upon further investigation by the fire department we found a leaking pipe in the attic,” Howard said.
Senior criminology and sociology major CJ Miceli was in Rhodes during both alarm triggers.
“The fire alarm went off twice. The first time we all evacuated and the second time I stayed in because I figured it was another false trigger, which I guess is against the rules but nobody came and yelled at me,” Miceli said.
Electrician Derek Goodrich was on the scene with other electricians from the Physical Plant.
“We had a compressor fail and we were trying to find a reason for it and we found a hole in the sprinkler system,” Goodrich said. Goodrich said that Life Safety Fire Protection Inc., the company responsible for the sprinkler systems, was working on fixing the problem.
Assistant Director of Physical Plant Marc Doyon said that despite the compressor being only a few months old, its constant use caused it to fail.
“The sprinkler contractor found a small hole in the dry system, part of that system is dry in the attic because it’s a cold space. So there’s a compressor that keeps it pressurized with air unless there is a problem and then the system would fill. So there’s a compressor that was continually running and it couldn’t keep up because air was escaping out of that hole, so that allowed water to fill the dry system, and they found water coming out of that little hole, and that was the problem,” Doyon said.
Doyon explained that the system was designed to sound off an alarm and alert the Fire Department if it detects any water. “Water flowing, whether it was a sprinkler head going off, the fire department would want to know that, or flowing into a system that’s normally dry. All of the sprinkler systems have ways in which to call if there’s any kind of water flow we’d want the fire department to come, it could be going off because of a fire,” Doyon said.
Howard said that the Department is required to respond to any alarms going off unless someone from fire prevention or the sprinkler contractors contact the Department ahead of time when doing maintenance or testing.
Howard said that there are repercussions for too many non-emergency triggerings, “The City has an ordinance that if there continued to be false alarms or malfunctions of systems, after the first occurance, if a second, third, fourth, fifth, or sixth occurrence occurs within 24 hours, there can be a violation assessment of one hundred dollars per incident. And that is simply to promote, wherever it is, to get the problem fixed and to stop unnecessary responses and/or evacuations of any building.”
Doyon said that the College pays a yearly fee for police, fire and other municipal services, which covers that cost.
Doyon said that a new compressor has since been installed in Rhodes.
Vincent Moore can be contacted at