The Five Worst Fire Alarm Horror Stories

Getting caught off guard by a fire alarm is extremely inconvenient. Worse yet, it’s practically inevitable during your time at college, and it seems everybody has their own worst experience about what they were doing when the alarm went off in their dorm, apartment, or class.

That’s why last week we asked you for your fire alarm horror stories. After consulting with the judges, we have determined the five worst first-hand tales.

5. Turning Redifer Commons into a “Refugee Camp”

Eric Zager, McElwain Hall, 2015

On a Thursday night this semester the fire alarm went off at 1:45 a.m. and disrupted everyone in and around the building. We thought it would be over quickly so I didn’t bother to put on pants, but we were unfortunately very wrong. After about 10 minutes they told everyone to get away from the building and go towards the sidewalk. After another 20 minutes, the fire trucks had arrived and they had all students move to the back loading dock. It was very cold out and people were shivering, so Ms. DQ, our building coordinator, decided everybody should wait it out in Redifer Commons.

And wait we did. People were sleeping on the ground, on top of tables, and under them. After about two hours we got the sense we would be spending the night in the commons, so table clothes were handed out to act as blankets. As I looked around I couldn’t help but compare Redifer Commons to people in a refugee camp. Then finally, at 5:32 a.m., the building was cleared for us to return, nearly four hours after this all began! Apparently there was a smoking fan, so all of the electrical wiring had to be inspected by engineers. Despite this all-nighter, many courageous souls made it to their early morning classes.

4. When You Need to Get to the Phyrst

Dom Presto, Penn Towers, 2015

On my twenty-first birthday on February 19 in Penn Towers last year, I was so drunk that, as I left my apartment to go to the Phyrst, I smashed the fire alarm with my fist, setting off the alarm and emptying out the entire complex at 12 a.m…when it was five degrees outside. I then proceeded to get kicked out of the Phyrst after nearly face planting on my first step inside.

I got a $700 fine from police the next day, but was able to pay some of it off with a GoFundMe account I created.

3. The Great Atherton Flood of 2015 

Kyle Salaga, Atherton Hall, 2015

The fire alarm in Atherton Hall went off last spring at 2 a.m. because, apparently, one of the girls on the first floor had thrown a shoe at her ex-boyfriend, missed, and broken one of the water pipes, causing flooding in the first floor and basement, and all residents of Atherton Hall had to vacate the building for several hours while the situation was fixed. In the end, there was thousands of dollars worth of damage, and the first floor and basement smelled like mold for the next month.

2. The Girl Who Went to the Fire Drill in Her Towel

Victoria DeCesare, Simmons Hall, 2012

This is probably one of the most traumatizing experiences of my college career thus far. It was the first or second week of my freshman year, so I was still getting to know the girls on my floor and other students in the building. One day, around 5 p.m. or so, I went to take a shower. As I’m in the middle of showering, I hear the fire alarms go off. I panic. Of course, the first thing that pops into my head (since I’m a scared freshman) is what my RA said about fire alarms: don’t wait around and get outside as quickly as possible. This was quite problematic, as the only “clothing” items I had in the shower were my towel and towel wrap. So, I put on the towel wrap as quickly as possible (still soaking wet from the shower), and ran out of the bathrooms into the hall and down the stairs.

I refused to go outside considering my “indecent” apparel, so I just waited until I found an RA to explain why I wasn’t going outside. However, the fire drill didn’t last long, and before I knew it, the whole building was coming back in, and there I was in my towel wrap, clearly fresh out of the shower, practically naked. This was my first impression to so many people in my building and floor. For the next few weeks, I was “the girl who went to the fire drill in her towel.” Note to self: always bring a change of clothes into the shower!

1.  Fatal Alarm

Judy Krouse, Park Hill, circa 1979

The alarm used to go off all the time, so we got to the point where we ignored it. On the particular night when the alarm was blaring, we stayed in our apartment until there was a knock on the door. We opened it to find a firefighter. Naturally, we left the building, but it seemed to take longer than usual until they let us back in.

The next morning, we walked down to the first floor for our usual shortcut out of the building. There, sadly, was a chalk outline. We soon found out that one of the building’s maintenance workers had gone to check out the fire alarm in a room on the first floor. He died (I’m assuming it was cardiac arrest or the like) outside the apartment. It made us realize just how serious the alarm was and, naturally, we never ignored the alarm again.

Is your fire alarm tale more horrific than these? Let us know in the comments!

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About the Author

Doug Dooling, Jr.

I am a staff writer for Onward State. I graduated as a Nittany Lion with Honors in 2013. Now, I am back in Happy Valley to earn a degree at the Penn State Law. Outside of politics and government, my interests include college football, soccer, Irish history, and astronomy.

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