A perfectly timed fire drill precedes actual fire situation the next day

September 5, 2023 — by Nicole Lee
Graphic by Isabelle Wang
The marvels of the irony of the fire alarm.
Students gathered on the upper and lower fields after a faulty CPU unit started a fire in a room used by SHSTV.

On Aug. 23 at 11:50 a.m., smoke began filling the SHSTV Film Studio after the CPU unit of a switcher started overheating. That triggered a school-side fire alarm, and students and teachers in their fourth-period classes evacuated to the upper and lower fields. Minutes later, firefighters came onto campus, and the situation was quickly resolved. No one was hurt.

According to MAP tech coordinator Joel Tarbox, a major reason for the issue was that the equipment was old and faulty. SHSTV students were practicing how to change between different cameras during shooting when the unit malfunctioned. 

Ironically, the fire occurred one day after the first school-wide fire drill of the year. 

As a result, many students thought the ringing was just another practice-run following the fire drill a day before. Students in the SHSTV’s control room, however, were faced with a different surprise.

“We were all crowded around a computer at the other end of the tiny room and didn’t notice [the fire] until somebody said something about smoke starting to appear,” junior Annette Li said. “When we turned around, a sudden pillar of smoke had formed, and a layer of smoke was starting to spread through the ceiling.” 

When students grasped what was happening, a brief panic settled over the class as the smoke triggered the automatic fire alarm. A few students hurried to find SHSTV adviser Benjamin Brotzman, who quickly unplugged the machine before evacuating. 

A fire truck promptly pulled up to the school near the science building as the campus evacuated to the upper and lower fields, following protocols discussed the day before during the tutorial fire drill. All teachers took attendance, and the situation was resolved by 12:10 p.m., just 20 minutes after the alarm had started ringing. 

The faulty unit was originally brought in during a summer program led by the local TV station KMVT, a local station SHSTV frequently collaborates with. 

As a result, the school did not maintain the unit; because of SHSTV’s previous experience using the equipment at the end of the 2022-2023 school year, they expected the CPU unit to be fully functioning and durable. But 40 minutes after they started using it for the first time this year, the machine malfunctioned.

According to Brotzman, all the other equipment in the studio belongs to and is maintained by the school and is in proper working order. For his part, Tarbox said the incident was highly unusual, but added: ”That building is full of computers and equipment. Anything, at any time, can happen when the batteries are running.”

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