At 12:18pm on Sunday, Dec. 13, 2020, a fire alarm went off in Euclid Commons Building 4 (the largest, L shaped building). Cleveland State Police Dispatch called Cleveland Fire Department (CFD) who arrived on scene within 10 minutes.
According to Cleveland fire inspectors, the alarm showed activation of the sprinkler system, which automatically releases when its temperature reaches 150 degrees, rather than in connection to pulling a fire alarm or the activation of a smoke detector.
CFD located the source of the water, a small closet, and thermal imaging put the door at 170 degrees, which made them believe they were dealing with a fire. When the door was opened, it was determined that it was actually a malfunction with the heating system that caused the room to reach such high temperatures.
CFD located the shutoff valve around 20-25 minutes following the initial sprinkler release. By then, flooding had reached the first floor, especially in the Office of Parking and Transportation Services, where efforts were made to protect items from water damage. Damages to the parking office included computers, printers, and phones.
By 2 pm the same day, work was underway, replacing and restoring the sprinkler system, with damaged access control panels and fire alarms replaced shortly after. Costs for restoring the fire safety systems were estimated at $1800.
Dan Ivan, Director of Fire Safety and Patrick Westropp, Cleveland State University Fire Safety Inspector, spoke with The Cauldron about the incident, and stressed that the system worked as intended, despite the lack of a fire.
“There’s no such thing as a false alarm,” said Westropp, explaining that the activation of fire safety systems means preventing an incident from escalating. “The system did what it’s supposed to do.”
Cleveland State has two fire safety inspectors, the aforementioned Westropp and Pat O’Malley. Ivan described their role as being “ heavily involved in testing, inspection, and maintenance of these systems. From the sprinklers to the probes on the walls and everything in between… their testing and inspection is second to none.”
Both urged students to take fire alarms seriously, and to be aware of one’s surroundings at all times, on or off campus. Ivan specifically recommends knowing a second way out in case of an emergency.
For on campus residents, Fenn Tower fire alarms require the entire floor to evacuate, and the floors above and below, because of its high rise construction. Learning from this, when Euclid Commons was built, fire systems were installed to limit alarms to just the room of occurrence, or in a more serious emergency, one of the four buildings that Euclid Commons is composed of.
“No one likes their day interrupted by a fire alarm,” said Westropp, “but for me it’s like wearing a seatbelt. How often do you get into a car accident? Hardly ever. But when you do, you want all the protection available to you.”
Westropp also mentioned an “interesting advantageous byproduct of the pandemic.” the availability of masks. “In a worst-case scenario, if a building were filled up with smoke, they can give a person a level of protection.”
Euclid Commons was largely empty at the time of the incident, as students were required to vacate the residence halls the day before, on December 12th, for the break.