University Hall to get new fire alarm system

By Gus Bode

The 40-year-old fire alarm system in University Hall will be replaced this summer if the Illinois Board of Higher Education approves the $1.65 million plan.

The Board of Trustees approved the upgrade last week, just seven days after a halogen lamp started a fire in Mae Smith Hall and six months after two students allegedly started a fire in a University Hall elevator.

In addition to replacing the alarm system, the electrical system will be upgraded to better accommodate students’ needs. The University purchased the once-privately owned University Hall, 1101 S. Wall St., in 2004 and began major renovations last summer. The four-story building houses 300 students.

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University spokeswoman Sue Davis said one of the primary features of the new alarm system is when an alarm is pulled, it activates a signal at the Physical Plant and the Carbondale Fire Department.

Additionally, the fire department will be able to tell exactly which alarm was activated.

“I think that’s a good thing,” Davis said. “They will be able to pinpoint which alarm was activated where.”

In addition to the new alarm system, sprinklers will begin to be installed in residences halls this summer, beginning with Schneider Hall.

Sprinklers will be installed in Mae Smith Hall in the summer of 2006, and Neely Hall will follow in the summer of 2007. The sprinkler systems will cost the University an estimated $3.5 million.

Ed Jones, director of University Housing, previously said after sprinklers are installed in the towers, they will be installed in Thompson Point and University Park, which will cost an additional $3 million.

The sprinkler installation is in compliance with state law that requires all residence halls in the state to install fire-dampening sprinklers by 2013.

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Because Greek Row is scheduled for demolition in 2010, buildings there will not get sprinklers but will get an upgraded alarm system this summer.

Reporter Monique Garcia can be reached at [email protected]

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