UPDATE: A dirty smoke detector on the fourth floor of the library was found to have set off the building’s fire alarm at 11:34 a.m., university police records manager Fred Mills said. The specific smoke detectors in the library use particle sensors which cannot differentiate between smoke and dust, causing the alarm to activate when dust accumulated on the sensor, Mills said. After police determined there was no fire, officers turned the malfunctioning detector over to an electrician at the library.
Hundreds of people were evacuated from the Robert E. Kennedy Library during University Union (UU) Hour Thursday when a smoke detector alarm caused concern for university officials.
University librarian Anna Gold said the alarm and evacuation were “unscheduled,” and alarms are not easy to set off by accident. There are protocols and drills for this scenario, but Gold said they are never during such busy times as UU Hour.
“The alarms go off, we get people out until we believe it’s safe,” she said.
Two university police cars responded to the alarm while students filled the lawns in front of the building. Fire doors in the library’s main staircase closed automatically, and Gold said the library’s security company was on the scene trying to shut off the malfunctioning alarm.
Students were allowed to reenter the library after police determined there were no fire or other safety risks in the building, Gold said.
“We’re going to have to do a little more debriefing, but my understanding right now is that the smoke detector malfunctioned,” she said.
Police said the smoke detector was part of an older system which might have been the cause of the alarm.
The cause and location of the alarm are still under investigation.