Fires an ongoing vexation at MacGregor and other dorms

Housing director says new alarms may be too sensitive

3397 firealarms
Frustrated at the frequent fire alarms in recent weeks, students in MacGregor. students display a count of the number of days since the last fire alarm in the window. There have been two fire alarms at Macgregor in the last 10 days, including one at 1:30 a.m.
Meng Heng Touch—The Tech

Wednesday night marked the fourth time this month and the second time within 10 days that the fire alarms in MacGregor House have gone off, forcing residents to evacuate the building. The reason, according to MIT’s director of housing, is that the building’s new fire alarm system is too sensitive.

Completely separate from the alarm-pulling incident on the east side of campus last week, the West Campus dorms have had their fair share of fire alarms as well. Three out of the six dorms on dorm row — McCormick, Baker, and MacGregor — have all had their fire alarms go off this month.

Residents in MacGregor now count the number of days since the last fire alarm through markings on the east side windows of the MacGregor high-rise.

The most recent fire alarms occurred in Baker on Wednesday morning, twice within 20 minutes of each other. The House Manager of Baker, Jonathan F. Nolan explains that “It was just unfortunate they came within 20 minutes of each other early in the morning.”

Both fires were legitimate, the first triggered by “an issue in the freight elevator machine room” (although no trouble was found) and the second caused by a faulty smoke detector, both in the basement, he said.

The two fire alarms in McCormick were “caused by burnt food” according to, William H. Radochia, MIT’s supervisor of fire protection.

Burnt food also triggered three out of the four fire alarms in MacGregor; the fourth alarm was caused by “a contractor who stirred up dust while servicing a refrigerator,” Radochia said.

Dennis Collins, MIT’s director of housing, attributes the increased frequency of the alarms in MacGregor House to the higher sensitivity of the new fire alarm system installed over the summer.

Collins says that “there is a normal adjustment period with any new alarm system” and that “the sensitivity of the smoke detectors is different from their old system, [which requires] the residents to ensure they do not create smoke that will set off the building wide alarm.”

As of last Wednesday, Collins is working to “brainstorm on ways to assist the students to adjust to the differing system,” he said.

All fire alarm activations on West Campus have been dealt with and cleared by the MIT Campus Police and the Cambridge Fire Department.

Campus Police have not responded to inquiries from The Tech regarding their investigation of fire alarms at East Campus and Senior House. Last Tuesday, alarms were deliberately pulled Tuesday morning twice in each East Campus parallel, once in Senior House and once again in E14, between the hours of 5 and 6 a.m.