New report details Baldwinsville's frigid fire alarm timeline

Baldwinsville students wait out fire alarm / Submitted by viewer

There are new details on an incident that sparked a huge response.

Two weeks ago, a fire alarm at Baker High School in Baldwinsville sent students outside in frigid temperatures. Some of them came from gym class wearing just t-shirts and shorts.

Monday night, the superintendent released a report detailing what happened that morning. According to the district's timeline, the fire alarm went off at 8:34 a.m. It took nine minutes and thirty seconds to get most of the students into other buildings on the district campus. By 8:49 a.m., about fifteen minutes after the alarm, all students were inside buildings. Superintendent Jeanne Dangle says the district looked at security cameras at the buildings to confirm the timeline.

Dangle said it was important to go back and review the evacuation. "After any emergency, any agency that has any type of emergency that's part of your process. You debrief, you review what went well, what you could do better," she said.

District officials also looked at areas that could be improved if something like this happened again. Dangle mentioned improving communication, reminding students where to meet teachers for attendance, and how to better handle the bus and emergency vehicle traffic outside the school.

"There is no cost to life safety that is the number one thing that the fire department wants to make sure is in effect and we support exactly what the school board did," said Baldwinsville Fire Chief KC Pickard. "I understand it was cold, but it was definitely what they needed to do."

Hundreds of you spoke out here on after the incident. Scroll down to read the comments.

Posted Tuesday, January 25th:

Baldwinsville school district officials are reviewing what happened after a fire alarm caused an evacuation at Baker High School Monday.

Board member Joan Reeves says the incident was discussed at last night TMs board meeting. She says district officials are having meetings analyzing what went wrong and how to correct it next time. They are interviewing students about what happened, and they are reviewing video from cameras in the area. They are also analyzing what went wrong with the sensor that caused the fire alarm to go off.

Liverpool Superintendent Richard Johns says his district has a similar protocol when fire alarms go off. In fact, an alarm went off at Soule Rd. Middle School last year on a cold day. He says the building was evacuated and busses were called in to keep the students warm.

"We have a plan," he says. "Utmost in that plan is keeping every single child safe, and you have to have faith in that."

An emergency management official we spoke with said the Baldwinsville district had no choice but to evacuate students after the alarm went off Monday.

Baldwinsville Superintendent Jeanne Dangle declined to speak with us on camera Tuesday but said the district is reviewing Monday's fire alarm.

How do you think fire alarms should be handled in cold weather? Join in the comments below to see what other Central New Yorkers have to say about the incident.

Original Story from Monday:

The Baldwinsville Central School District is facing questions after students were sent outside in frigid cold temperatures for a fire alarm " many without coats.

Stacy Tooke was in gym class at C.W. Baker High School Monday morning and was forced to evacuate in just her t-shirt and shorts. "It was obviously really cold. Our legs were bright red, they were tingly and burning," said Tooke.

The district says phone calls went out to parents about the problem. "I was concerned," said Stacy's mother, Tracy Pankowski. "I didn't think they'd be out there that long," she said.

CNY Central's Chief Meteorologist Wayne Mahar says the morning low in Baldwinsville was -14 degrees. The district says kids were outside for about ten minutes, but some students argue they were out there much longer. Warm buses brought some students down to the nearby junior high and elementary school, which are all on the same campus as the high school. Students say those buses filled up quickly and those who didn't want to wait in the cold walked to the nearby schools.

"It was freezing, I didn't have time to grab a coat or go to my locker," said senior Samantha Murphy.

We spoke with district superintendent Jeanne Dangle Monday morning. She confirmed that a fire alarm went off in the high school around 8:30 a.m. She said that some students had to leave school without their coats because they cannot send students across the building to retrieve their jackets if there is a threat of a fire.

"We were thinking if we had a two hour delay this could have all been avoided," said senior Conner Guyer. "We are all frustrated."

Dangle says a sensor problem indicating intense heat in the duct system triggered the alarm. She says todays decision was a tough balancing act but they had to put the students safety first.

"We don't want a student in the cold weather to have frost bite but we don't want to make the decision to keep the students in the building when there was an unpredictable decision there that could have injured a lot of students," she said.

Dangle says she has not received any reports of frostbite or other cold-related injuries, though some parents and students have said otherwise.