How an Unexpected Fire Alarm Turned a Wednesday Upside Down


Sheridan Daley and Annabelle Giardino

On Wednesday, October 12, a mysterious fire alarm rang signaling all students and staff of Winthrop High School to evacuate. Although, it wasn’t that simple: students were being told to re-enter their classrooms shortly after leaving them and then once again told to go outside. Nobody knew what was happening, especially our teachers but as we all struggled to find an answer rumors such as a fire in the middle school to the possibility that a student pulled it were spreading around the halls from the time we left the building to the time we re-entered. We stood outside for an estimated 30 minutes, cutting into the third period. All teachers stood outside anxiously with their classes without a direct cause, leaving many questions to be answered. Once we got back into the building it was obvious that many were still taken aback due to this unexplainable alarm. Most classes following this event were spent as free periods due to the time constraint along with the overall confusion that we were all met with. We conducted several interviews and gathered any information to get to the bottom of the true reasoning behind the puzzling procedure that sent Winthrop High School into a frenzy.

A lot of the staff seemed very flustered during the evacuation. None of them had any idea that the alarm was going to go off. This was a real fire alarm to them, not a drill like they are used to. We caught up with Coach Cadigan to learn how he handled the situation. Our first question was asking him what he was up to.

¨I had a free period, I had a prep period so I was just watching some stuff, film, football stuff on my computer,¨ Cadigan said. He didn’t have a class going on, he was able to evacuate on his own. We wanted to know more about his thought process during all of this, such as when he figured out what was going on. ¨I think later on I realized or I found out from someone who told me what happened.”

All the teachers must have been very worried and nervous. There could have been a big emergency in the building, which is why we have to take these things very seriously.

The next interview was for Jimmy, one of the school’s custodians. He was busy when the alarm went off. It came very unexpectedly, but he had a protocol to follow.

¨We go to the main fire panel to see where the alarm is located, and then we kinda go to our post. Mine is the third floor safe room, so that’s basically what we did,¨ Jimmy said. The fire panel tells him what the issue is. Thanks to people like Jimmy, we are able to identify the issue, prevent it in the future, and find out why alarms can go off in such a haphazard manner.

Chris Beshere, Sean Dolan, Nicholas Romano, and Seth Sacco demonstrating how they fled the building.

Many of my fellow classmates were spiraling into a state of confusion and, depending on who you talk to, worry. To get a better insight into what students were feeling during this event we interviewed Chris Beshere, Nicholas Romano, and Seth Sacco. When asked where they were at the time the alarm went off Nicky and Seth told us they were in Math, while Chris was in Spanish. Chris gave us a breakdown of what he experienced saying, “We were the group that we were like all the way down the stairs and Mr. Serino said to go back up and right at the top, we got right up to the top of the stairs…and got back to class.” Seth added on that he was in class “for like two minutes” before being told to come back downstairs. I was put in a similar situation as I left my Algebra class before soon being told to turn around followed by what Chris described as “the alarm started going off again and [Mr.] Serino just yelled up to come back down”. Once we reached the exit, more questions started to arise such as “Why did the alarm go off?”, “Is something wrong?”, and “Is this a drill?”, prompting us to look at the way we should be handling situations such as this one.

This year we have already had a couple of hold-in-places and two fire alarms go off. Let’s get more into the details of the differences between these situations. We can start off with fire alarms. When you hear the intense ringing of the bell and the monotone voice telling you to evacuate, find your nearest exit. If you are with your class try to stay together and quickly get outside. Stay in a group with your teacher so they can make sure everyone is accounted for. Now, if you’re in the bathroom or wandering the halls, find the nearest teacher and walk with them out of the building. Then make sure to find your teacher so they know you are safe.

We talked with Officer Carter about the difference between a lockdown and a hold-in-place. ¨Lockdown, everyone stays in their rooms. In a hold in place, it is one level below a lockdown. A lockdown is more serious.¨ Make sure to listen to your teacher to learn how to proceed if either of these two situations occur. If you are out of a classroom, find the closest occupied one, and stay put.

Wednesday was chaotic for everyone; teachers and students were both confused. It would be best if next time we had better communication. A lot of students are still talking about what the cause of the alarm could have been. After a lot of interviews, trying to dig up the truth we were finally able to learn what happened. Our last interview was with Officer Carter, who explained to us that there is a panel that tells him what the cause of the alarm is. Since we were desperate for the truth, we got him to tell us the true cause. ¨

It was a water sprinkler. One of the sprinkler heads got heated. It sets off an alarm.¨ Although this may not be the juicy ending you were hoping for, we can all be grateful that things did not take a turn for the worse.