Power Outage Sets Off Fire Alarm in Commons On Wednesday, Interrupts Spring Visits

The new Paresky Commons has turned out to be a little too hot to handle. At 1:02 p.m. on Wednesday, the fire alarm sounded in Paresky Commons after smoke began to fill the second floor serving area and dining halls. The fans in the upstairs grill area shut off after a power outage, causing the smoke from the pepper-crusted steak to set off the fire alarms. The power failure was caused by a truck that hit guide wires on a power pole on the corner of Main Street and Phillips Street, according to Tom Conlon, Manager of Andover Public Safety. Although the power pole that was hit did not belong to Andover, the collision caused the power to shut down in Commons and the Oliver Wendell Holmes Library. Many students thought at first that the fire alarm was a prank, since Wednesday was April Fool’s Day. Once the second floor began to fill with smoke, however, it became apparent that the alarm was not a joke. Laura Lee ’11 said, “We were standing in line when the lights went off and the fire alarm sounded. At first I thought it was a joke.” The fire alarm interrupted not only a Wednesday lunch, one of the most crowded dining times, but also admitted students and their families who were dining on campus during spring visits. Although the fire alarm was an unforeseen interruption, prospective students and families were not put off, and the day continued afterwards as scheduled. Jane Fried, Dean of Admission, wrote in an email, “I do not think that today’s fire drill will have any effect on families’ decisions. Everyone was in good humor for the closing session.” The alarm sounded when many students had just received their meals. Some students left Commons with plates in hand, finishing their lunches before hurrying to sports games. Emily Rademacher ’11, a member of Girls Varsity Lacrosse, did not have time to eat, as her team had to leave early for a scrimmage. Brenna Liponis ’10 entertained the crowd waiting outside Commons by conducting an Andover cheer as a part of her Blue Key Head tryout. “Screaming outside in an open space with people talking over you was more difficult than I expected,” said Liponis. When the alarm rang, diners and staff evacuated the building quickly, and the community awaited the arrival of the Andover Fire Department in order to reenter Commons. Due to a misunderstanding of safety rules, students and faculty re-entered the building before they should have done so. “When the fire department requested that the audible alarm be silenced, people mistakenly thought it was okay to re-enter the building, which is not the case,” said Conlon. “No one should re-enter a building until clearance is given by the fire department or someone authorized by the fire department to do so,” Conlon continued. Public Safety and the Andover Fire Department will begin conducting fire drills in all academic and administrative buildings throughout the next few weeks to address this problem, said Conlon. Upon returning prematurely to Commons, students flocked to the most popular food stations. Some were disappointed to find that sandwiches left in the panini presses were burnt, as were all of the pizzas, left in the oven during the commotion. The library was also affected by the power outage, but systems were up and running again within minutes. “Some of the computers [were] still shut off, but everything else came back on shortly after the power went out,” said Sharon Pei, Instructional Librarian. Commons, however, did not regain power for 20 minutes. “It took longer to restore power to Paresky because the new main electric breaker did not reset properly, and our electricians needed to respond,” said Michael Williams, Director of Facilities. According to Williams, the Office of the Physical Plant is addressing these problems, which he expects to resolve in coming weeks.