Where There’s Smoke, There’s Freezing Students

Most upper schoolers were in the cafeteria enjoying their morning break when the fire alarm blared.

The students flocked to the exits in a state of chaos. Teachers directed them out of the building, but most students had little idea of where to go once outside.

Even many of the teachers, caught away from their classrooms when the alarm went off, did not have rosters, walkie talkies, or the ubiquitous red and green cards used to signal that their students were accounted for.

Also, it was freezing.

An average temperature of 39° F that day made standing outside unpleasant, to say the least.

“Even though it was an interesting interruption, I hated having to stand outside in the cold,” junior Mary Carolyn Hulgan said.

Thus began Stratford Academy’s first day back from winter break on Monday, Jan. 6.

Minutes after the alarm sounded, a fire truck drove up to the front of the school, ready to jump into action. Students were shuttled into the science building to escape the cold. After the fire department inspected the main building, the all-clear was given.

But students returned to 6th period without learning why they had been forced out into the cold. What caused the alarm?

“A belt inside an air conditioning unit slipped, creating smoke and alerting the smoke detector inside, causing the alarm to go off,” Assistant Business Manager Ms. Donna Kay McGoldrick explained in an interview with the Gazebo.

McGoldrick said that overall she and the rest of the faculty were pleased with students’ reaction to the unexpected alarm, especially considering the timing. Students got out quickly and gathered together, McGoldrick said, despite being too loud.

This unplanned fire alarm also has caused the administration to start thinking about the school’s safety protocols and how they might be improved. Upper school students need to make sure they gather in the back parking lot no matter which exit they use, according to McGoldrick, and remember to stay calm and quiet.

McGoldrick said she hopes to get the administration behind her in a plan to better prepare students, possibly having more fire drills during break, lunch, or even pep rallies.

“This was a big learning experience. I am always proud of Stratford students,” she said.