Fire Alarm Activated in Morsani Twice in One Week


Students in Morsani Hall were given a rude awakening at approximately 9 a.m. on Sunday, Sept. 24, to a false alarm. What was initially thought to be a fire turned out to be quite the exact opposite. Pandini’s experienced a mechanical malfunction with the sprinkler system. This caused flooding in the food prep area, and contaminated a majority of the equipment.

Students were rushed out of the dorm in response to the fire alarm going off due to this same malfunction. Some, such as Alyssia McDonald, were going about their usual morning routines when the alarm went off.

“The whole evacuation was kind of scary,” McDonald said. “We just weren’t ready for it that early in the morning. One of my roommates was showering, and she didn’t know what to do. With how loud all the sirens were, it sounded like The Purge.”

A second student, Morgan Gaffey, was in no shock over the incident.

“It was the second drill we had been through in about a week. I kept worrying I was gonna be late, but nobody knew how long this was gonna take,” Gaffey said.

Campus Safety and the Tampa Fire Department determined that there was no potential harm to students and allowed students to return to their dorm within several minutes of the evacuation, according to Morsani hall residents.

“We were responding to the fire alarm, but our main priority is to document any findings,” said Kevin Howell, director of campus safety. “That, and to ensure the safety of those evacuating the building. Facilities were on the scene before we were handling the incident.”

Ralph Beyrouti, Retail Operations Manager of Dining Services, and Amy Truong, Resident District Manager of Dining Services, were convinced the issue that day had been due to a single busted water valve that caused an evacuation to take place.

“There was no ‘busted valve,’” said Jennifer Isenbeck, director of facillities. “The sprinkler systems we use are set to go off in response to abnormally high heat. In the case of Morsani, only one sprinkler went off, which was directly near the pizza oven.”

Despite this, Beyrouti and Truong had no reason to believe this was an incident caused by employee error. According to Beyrouti, “The same two employees opened Pandini’s that day that had been every day for the last six years. We followed Sodexo protocol and interviewed them over what happened, but nothing in our investigation places this as being their fault. It’s simply an issue with the sprinkler system.”

Both Beyrouti and Truong assured students and dining service employees that the affected facilities would provide no health concerns after the proper cleaning.

“Sanitation is a very important issue for Dining Services,” Beyrouti said. “There is no way we could open Pandini’s without having sound assurance that it was fit for use.”

While UT facilities does the bulk of the cleaning after an incident such as this, dining services has to contact additional support from the corporations that supply and maintain the bulkier equipment.

“We have two companies responsible for the inspection and upkeep of our kitchens, Hobart and All-American,” Truong said. “Hobart is Dining Service’s provider for maintenance on all ovens, hoods, etc.; All-American is responsible for general fire safety inspections, including our water valves.”

Neither company could be reached for comment about the incident. Following a three day closure, Pandini’s has since been reopened, as well as being deemed fit for food production again by facilities.

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