Fire Alarm Interrupts Holiday Ball

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During Holiday Ball this part Saturday, December 12, a fire alarm astounded and confused many Choate students, who were busy dancing to the music, eating chocolate covered strawberries, and taking memorable photos.

According to Director of the Student Activities Center, Mr. Jim Yanelli, the fire alarm was set off in one of the apartments in the Hill House complex. For the event, the SAC installed several haze machines, which are similar to fog machines, and are primarily used for lighting effects for parties and other events. “Whenever we use haze to augment the lighting effects, which is all the time in the SAC and all the time in major dances like Holiday Ball, First Hurrah, and ¾, we pay to have a firewatch,” said Mr. Yanelli. A firewatch, as Mr. Yanelli put it, is essentially a person Choate pays to come to do what the fire suppression would do automatically. For these events, fire alarms are disabled in Hill House Dining Hall. However, the fire alarms in the dorms, specifically Hill House, West Wing, and Hall House, are not disabled.

During the event, the haze from machines travelled outside of the open windows in the dining hall, rose and went into the faculty apartments. According to Mrs. Emily Lovejoy, the haze entered the second floor of Hall, which then set off the fire alarm in the dorm.
According to Mr. Yanelli, there seemed to be no commotion or confusion given the unexpected occurrence. Students promptly followed instructions and left the dining hall, and either congregated outside the front steps of Hill House or the side yard in between the Andrew Mellon Library and the dining hall.

“It took a while for the fire department to identify the source of the problem,” said Mr. Yanelli. Some students were confused about the situation and according to Lovejoy, “There were some initial thoughts that it was from the dining hall kitchen and the alarm went off there.” Students waited for around twenty minutes outside while the Wallingford Fire Department inspected the area.

During this time, Choate students made the most of the situation and did not leave the ball. Though there were some concerns that students may leave the event, instead, some students had their own version of Holiday Ball outside, given the ideal weather conditions.

According to Uzo Biosah ’16, “The situation was ideal, and we made the most of it. I ran to my dorm to grab my speaker and brought it back. I cranked up the volume and we had a good time. And yes, the party went on. Honestly, I had just as much fun outside.”
As put by Mr. Yanelli, “I think it would’ve been more of a problem had the weather been less pleasant.” In past years, the night of Holiday Ball has usually been a snowy night. Had that been the same case this year, the situation would have been much more difficult to handle, since students would have to be escorted a warmer place or even wait out in the snow, according to Yanelli.

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