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New fire alarm system to begin testing soon

By George Ipe

In a move to increase safety and modernize existing systems, new fire alarms are being installed in the Infinite Corridor and some adjacent buildings, according to Safety Officer Jerry Diaz. An outside contractor began work on the system upgrade in February, and a three-part testing phase will begin later this month.

The alarm systems being replaced were designed to comply with fire codes that were written when the buildings were built, "20, 30, 40 years ago," Diaz said. "But codes change as years pass; when new technologies come by, what was acceptable 30 or 40 years ago is not acceptable today," he said.

Though encouraged by the

Cambridge Fire Company and the present state fire codes, "the alarm system upgrade is something that MIT has chosen to do voluntarily," Diaz said.

The old system was installed without fire alarms so that students would not be disturbed by false alarms. "So the old system didn't have any bells, or whistles, or horns. What they had was a `pull station' where the alarm could be manually triggered, and a signal would be immediately sent to the fire department. Night watchmen and campus police were also on the lookout for possible fires," Diaz said.

System is state-of-the-art

"The new system is state-of-

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the-art, replacing the old electromechanical alarms with solid-state electronics. The new fire alarm will augment the pull stations with flashing strobe lights, which will aid the hearing-impaired. In addition, a `whooper' siren, preferred by modern fire codes, will be installed," he said.

Another feature of the system is an emergency microphone that will allow firemen to give instructions directly through a speaker system.

Installation in Buildings 2, 4, 6 and 8 is nearing completion, and initial tests will begin by the middle of November. The three phases of final inspection include a contractor test and an MIT acceptance test, both mandated by law, and a joint fire alarm drill conducted by the fire station, MIT and the contractor.

Diaz said there have been no major fires on campus since the arson incident at Burton-Conner House last year. He added, "This modernization program is in its first phase; future plans call for these alarms to be installed in other buildings as well. The new systems will be a great improvement over what we had before."