What You Need to Know About Saadiyat Fire Alarms

Occasionally, daily life on Saadiyat is punctured by the trill of an alarm — a sporadic sign that the emergency system in one of the campus’ buildings ...

Occasionally, daily life on Saadiyat is punctured by the trill of an alarm — a sporadic sign that the emergency system in one of the campus’ buildings has been triggered. A hot topic on Saadiyat Island, fire alarms have kindled heated discussion among students questioning the frequency of drills and the reason why alarms are set off on campus, as well as different types of response.
According to Associate Director of NYU Abu Dhabi Public Safety Robert Titus, the fire alarm system at NYUAD is a double knock system, meaning that there are two types of alarm responses in the residential buildings.
When a detector senses excessive heat, it activates an alarm response in each room and corridor on that floor, along with rooms on the floors above and below. Students inside the rooms are then supposed to evacuate the building. Students not residing on these floors will only hear the alarm in their corridor, signalling that they should stand by.
“The emergency response team will evaluate the situation,” explained Titus. “If it is a serious thing, then we’re going to activate the whole building and ask you to leave. Otherwise, if it’s a stable situation, controllable, we’ll mitigate the risk and terminate the alarm.”
If smoke or danger travels to other floors, those alarms will also be activated.
Another issue that has kept the fire alarm debate ablaze is the different types of alarms — students have been asking which ones signal drills and which signal real fires, and whether they could be informed beforehand about drills.
“As far as we know, knowing beforehand that there’s going to be a drill takes away from the process of the drill, in the sense that people would be preparing for it. They’d be gathering at the lobby, or they’d be standing at their doors, waiting for the alarm to go off, so you don’t really have the same type of response,” explained Titus.
Director of Facilities Marcelino Romanos then added that there were several announced drills in Sama Tower, but that students ended up going to the Downtown Campus whenever they were aware that there was going to be a drill, therefore defeating its purpose.
“We encourage you to participate and take these drills seriously, because that’s a lifesaving situation, that’s how you get to know which way to go out of the building. In case there’s not just a fire, but any kind of emergency, we want you to know your emergency exit routes,” said Romanos.
A further burning question was the causes for fire alarms. Titus explained that drills are only scheduled once every semester per building. The rest of the alarms are set off by various causes.
“The majority of them were due to cooking and the alarm being set off by ovens that did not have hoods yet, and we’re installing hoods in those locations,” Romanos said. “There will always be unanticipated causes, such as workers doing work generating dust and ... not doing the proper procedure to isolate the device, or sometimes it’s a device all by itself.”
According to Titus, last month there were about 22 instances of nuisance-triggered fire alarms going off, the majority of them due to cooking in the A3 and A4 blocks.
There was also one case of steam in A5C.
“So probably you’re in the shower for a long time — plenty of hot water, open up your door, steam activates the alarm,” said Titus. “Those things do happen as well.”
Romanos added, however, that the number of nuisance-triggered fire alarms per month has decreased over time, as campus systems have become more and more stable.
“Our objective is to make sure that everybody is safe, so we will be doing some more drills this semester, we will not let you know when but we hope that you all participate and take it seriously,” Romanos concluded.
Paula Valentina Dozsa is deputy features editor. Email her at
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