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Opinion: Frequent fire alarms disrupt student life

Frequent fire alarms in the Corbett Center Student Union and across campus disrupt student life at New Mexico State University. (Photo by Marshall Mecham/Kokopelli)

At New Mexico State University, fire alarms go off in the Corbett Center Student Union more than any other building on campus. Becoming a concern for students and faculty, these alarms seem to have gone off more often this academic year than ever before.

Many college campuses across the country deal with fire alarms constantly going off in multiple buildings, but it’s hard to imagine they go off as often as they do at NMSU. There have been times this semester when fire alarms have gone off multiple times in one day. On April 5, 2024, alarms went off in Corbett Center twice in one day, upsetting many people. Other buildings on campus have had similar problems, including the dorms and libraries. 

It is unfortunate when it happens at dorms because students may be in the middle of important work. This is the case in all buildings, especially the more common ones where students may be working hard on homework or exams. 

Student Andy Lopez spends a lot of time in the Corbett Center Student Union and eating at Taos Dining Hall, and said he’s been significantly affected by this problem. “I’m okay with fire drills, but with how often they’re happening, it’s just getting annoying,” Lopez said. “It’s irritating when I have to be in a rush to eat only for the alarm to get in the way.”

Lani Martinez is a residential assistant at Garcia Hall and must deal with the frustrating fire alarms every so often. “They work fine in the dorms, but it happens too much at Corbett Center,” Martinez said.  

It is not just the students who must deal with this, but everyone involved with the university. According to the NMSU Fire Department, there has been talk regarding whether a campus this size should be having this many fire alarms. 

“The number of alarms that NMSU has experienced at Corbett Center is extremely high and concerning,” said NMSU’s Fire Chief Johnny Carrillo. “The high amount of false fire alarms tend to make our students, staff and visitors complacent.” 

“The number of alarms that NMSU has experienced at Corbett Center is extremely high and concerning.”

There are a lot of questions from those who attend or work at the university as to why these false fire alarms continue to happen. According to Carrillo, some of the blame rests on the students themselves. “Approximately 30% of the false fire alarms since the start of the spring semester have been attributed to smoking and/or vaping,” Carrillo said. “NMSU has the policy 16.63 Smoking and Tobacco Use Restrictions that simply states smoking [and] vaping are prohibited within any NMSU facility and no closer than 25 feet away from any entrance.”

Workers and students wait outside Corbett Center Student Union on Wednesday, April 3, 2024, after a fire alarm forced them to evacuate the building. (Photo by Jaclyn Ruiz/Kokopelli)

It is not easy for students to have to deal with these false fire alarms, but many of them do not know their peers are one of the leading causes of it all. Most students know the dangers of smoking and vaping because of what it can do to their bodies, but they still do it anyway. Perhaps this latest information will prevent them from doing so in the future. 

There are other reasons as to why the alarms in the Corbett Center Student Union have been going off more frequently than usual. “Fire alarms can also be triggered manually by the simple activation of a fire alarm pull station,” Carrillo said.  

Pulling these fire alarms manually can get someone in serious trouble with the university. It’s also a fourth-degree felony. A lot of college students are still under the age of 20 and may not know entirely what they are getting themselves into when making these poor decisions. They are not only affecting themselves, but every employee who works in the building as well.

Since the Corbett Center Student Union is home to multiple dining locations such as Taos Dining Hall and Chick-Fil-A, burnt food is also a reason for the frequent fire alarms. 

In conclusion, the frequent fire alarms that take place in multiple buildings on campus annoy many people who live and work at NMSU, but it seems the campus community itself is at least partly to blame. Whatever the reasons, for a campus this size it happens far too often, especially compared to other years.  

NMSU as a whole seems committed to the safety of the university, its students and everyone who is involved with the school’s success, but everyone has to do their part. Hopefully, this situation will not be such a big issue next school year. 

The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in this article belong solely to the author, and not necessarily to New Mexico State University, the NMSU Department of Journalism and Media Studies, Kokopelli, or any other organization, committee, group or individual. 

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