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Dorm Fire Safety and Maintenance

Swarthmore College is committed to the safety of its residential, academic, and staff buildings. Fire Safety is always a chief concern and is a shared responsibility of the Student Affairs Division, Public Safety, and the Maintenance Department, as well as the occupants and users of the buildings.

All dormitories have Simplex Alarm systems connected via fiber optic cable to a monitoring station at Public Safety in the Ben West House. That station is monitored 24 hours a day every day of the year. To further enhance safety, all dormitories have been retrofitted with sprinkler systems capable of producing 15 gallons of water per minute per sprinkler head. These sprinkler systems are monitored by Swarthmore Public Safety via flow switches in each dorm that will indicate that water is moving.

Occupants, especially dorm residents, should be very aware that tampering with fire safety devices is not only illegal, but it jeopardizes the safety of everyone in the building. The accidental discharge of sprinklers can also cause extensive damage. Here are a few safety and maintenance rules:

  1. Do not disconnect or attempt to remove the smoke detector in your room. Doing so will send a trouble signal to Public Safety, who will investigate the source of the problem. Do not cover the detector.  It's purpose is to provide an early warning by detecting the products of combustion. Any delay gives fire the chance to grow.  Our systems are designed to sound a local alarm in the room first, before triggering a building-wide alarm. Occasionally these local alarms become a nuisance from a defective smoke detector. If that happens contact workbox.
  2. Do not hang or string anything from the sprinkler heads or sprinkler piping. The sprinkler head is sensitive, and damage to it could initiate water flow. The design is simple: a glass rod holds a heat sensitive wax plug in place. If the wax melts or the glass rod is broken, the water pressure will blast out the plug and the sprinkling will commence. Only the Fire Department is authorized to shut off the system once sprinklers are deployed. In the meantime, 15 gallons of water per minute per sprinkler head will deluge the area and the floors beneath, and you could be held liable for the damage.  As a comparison our shower heads flow 2.5 gallons per minute.  You don't want the equivalent of six showers soaking your room.
  3. Do not tamper with fire extinguishers unless a fire condition exists. Fire extinguishers are located in visible locations on every floor. Public Safety annually tests and replaces them as needed. Discharging an extinguisher as a prank or for any reason other than a legitimate fire is illegal.