Saturday, May 25Royal Holloway's offical student publication, est. 1986

WedderBURN It Down

Let’s face it, when we got to uni as innocent little Freshers we were all quick to pick up stereotypes about the halls we live in.

For instance, if someone says they’re from Founders they’re likely to be met with, “how do you cope sharing a bathroom?”

Invited over to Runnymede? Well you might want to check first if that’s Runnymede one or two.

If you encounter an unfortunate soul from Kingswood, the glance of pity they’re met with says it all really.

And Wedderburn isn’t immune to these stereotypes. In fact, it’s notoriously infamous for its fire alarms.

This academic year alone, there have been 28 alerts from the four blocks of Wedderburn, many of which were in the early hours of the morning. Not only has this been an extreme annoyance when it comes to prying yourself out of bed to go and stand outside in the cold indefinitely, but it has also sparked rumours and debate over Yik Yak about who set the alarms off.


Because of this, I got in contact with the College Fire Safety Officer, Alan Oakes, to gain some perspective on the issue.

Those in Wedderburn have heard it all. From alerts being due to showering with the door open, the extractor fans not working or people lighting cigarettes in lifts. But contrary to the rumours circulating, Oakes shed some light on the situation and rather frustratingly informed me that the majority of alerts have actually been caused by cooking – come on guys, how hard is it to not burn your food?

He also emphasised the fact that many alerts could have been prevented if simple measures were taken such as fire doors being left closed. He shares an example of this, “I recently came across a kitchen door being wedged open. I asked student who was in the kitchen at the time if it was his and he said yes, and that the parents of one of the students in their flat had supplied all 8 of them with wedges to make life easier for them, because self-closing fire doors were a nuisance! This is the kind of thing we are up against when we try to impart our fire safety message.”

He further told me that a few were also caused by smoking inside or near to the building but not anywhere near as many as were due to cooking.

When asked about there being issues with the fire alarms themselves or the design of the building, Oakes affirmed that only one set of alerts on 11th February 2016 (the four that went off in an hour) were a result of one faulty detector – among the 8000 on campus – and that investigation has shown absolutely no difference in building design that would lead to increased sensitivity of detectors.

He did explain that a few were due to “malicious attacks” which most people knew of through Yik Yak, however an email sent out to Gowar and Wedderburn residents earlier in January seems to have caused these to subside. Alerts are still being closely monitored though in case there is any reoccurrence of these attacks.

So when you weight it all up, the situation has really been caused by student’s behaviours. This is obviously an issue because the more false alerts there are, the less likely students are to respond accordingly and the more risk is therefore caused. Oakes said, “We [the college] provide all the necessary fire safety measures to protect the lives of our students, but we do need their cooperation for them to be effective.” This is cooperation that is currently not being provided as the minority aren’t being vigilant enough with their actions, causing hassle for everyone else.

I think I speak for everyone in Wedderburn when I say please spare our some of sleep and sanity, especially with exams coming up, and stop burning your food.