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Next House Residents Evacuated

By Benjamin P. Gleitzman

Residents of Next House were evacuated for just over two hours Sunday night after members of the Department of housing were not able to reset a smoke detector in a stairwell on the fifth floor. Residents were evacuated to New House around 9:40 p.m., and were not allowed back into the dormitory until a little before midnight, said Dormitory Patrol Supervisor Charlene M. McLaughlin. It is still unclear what caused the initial alarm.

McLaughlin was dispatched to check for a ceiling leak reported at the loading dock of Next House around 9:30 p.m. Around the same time, beeping sounds were heard emanating from the fire alarm control panel near the Next House lounge around 9:30 p.m., said Jonathan S. Burnham ’08. This was about 10 minutes before the main alarm was triggered. Facilities arrived to reset the alarm control panel, Burnham said.

“The smoke detector [on the fifth floor] didn’t look like it had been tripped,” said McLaughlin. “When it would not reset, we called in a fire tech.”

The fire technician called to reset the smoke detector did not arrive on the scene until around midnight, delayed by a flat tire, McLaughlin said.

Though the fire detection system was not fully functional, firefighters dispatched to the scene allowed residents to return to the dormitory after no fire was discovered in the building and members of Night Watch, a housing department group that patrols MIT’s dormitories, were assembled as a fire watch. The fire watch consisted of three to four members, according to Associate Director of Housing Dennis Collins.

The fire technician was able to reset the fire system and gave the all clear signal at 2:22 a.m., McLaughlin said.

Many evacuated students went to neighboring New House “after we realized it was going to be a while,” said Burnham. “It was sort of a fun little break.”

“I had an exam [Monday] morning, and I was a little frustrated,” said Andrew M. Bishara ’09.

Next House residents were informed not to use elevators, hot pots, burners, microwaves, or ovens, and were also told not to smoke in the building, according to an e-mail from Associate Housemaster John Simmons. The ban was lifted late yesterday evening.