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ISSUE 121 VOL 8 PUBLISHED 11/16/2007

Mohn smoke causes distress

By Joanna Cullen
Contributing Writer

Friday, November 16, 2007

Mohn Hall residents were torn from their activities late Saturday evening when the piercing sound of the fire alarm began ringing in their ears. The source of the smoke later turned out to be a smoke bomb.

"At approximately 10:50 p.m. a resident came to the front desk complaining that there was smoke on the first floor. Two resident assistants [Jake Busch '09 and Tyler Lantz '09] who happened to be at the desk went to check it out," said Director of Residence Life Pamela McDowell.

"As soon as they opened the door to the stairwell on the first floor, they saw a wall of smoke, so they pulled the fire alarm for the building. One of them called 911 while the other one called public safety. The staff members on each floor went around and let residents know it was not a drill and that they need to leave right away," McDowell said.

Chelsea Ray '10, a first floor resident, had spent much of the evening in Mohn with friends and was there when the alarm sounded. "I kind of blew it off at first," Ray said. "I was a bit skeptical, thinking that it was just a prank." However, as students streamed down the stairs from the higher floors, word spread rapidly that it was not a prank.

The building was evacuated as quickly as possible and residents were ushered across the street to the grass and sidewalk near the Buntrock parking lot. Students were later asked by authorities to move over to a grassy median known as Thorson Island to ensure that emergency vehicles could get through.

"When Public Safety arrived, most students were evacuated. It took less than five minutes to clear the entire building," McDowell said. "Staff did a great job of getting to each floor and getting people out."

The Northfield Police Department, as well as several ambulances and fire trucks, were on the scene within minutes to assist in locating and neutralizing the source of the smoke. "The biggest concern once they realized it was a smoke bomb was figuring out if there were other smoke bombs in the building, as the smoke filled the entire building and was seen coming out of windows on both sides," McDowell said.

Roughly an hour later, the situation was under control and residents were allowed to re-enter the building and return to their rooms. "We informed residents that the fastest way to air out the building was if they opened their windows when they returned to their rooms. The RA's and JC's were on every floor and were told that if anyone was having breathing problems or had serious smoke problems in their room to let the staff member on the floor know and they were instructed to contact me so we could take care of it," McDowell added.

The person or persons responsible for setting off the smoke bomb have not yet been identified. While there have been no physical injuries as a result of the bomb, "there have been four students who have been to the hospital as a result of the smoke," Mohn Area Coordinator Erin Paul said.

"We have gotten a few leads and will begin meeting with students," McDowell said early Monday afternoon. "I consider this incident to be extremely dangerous and measures would be taken to make sure nothing like this would happen again. The consequences will be severe."

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