Wednesday night, around 9 pm, a Carbon monoxide detector went off in Sheahan Hall, sending students and employees out of the building and into the rainy night. Faculty directed residents to the student center, while officials investigated the alarm.
True to protocol, a firetruck, ambulance and multiple security cars lined up along the walkway between Sheahan and Leo Hall. Their lights and sirens lit up the sky and could be seen from across campus. A crowd of Marist security, firefighters and housing staff gathered outside of their vehicles.
Sheahan Residential Assistant Kim Marsden walked briskly from the scene, directing people away from the dorm. “Nobody’s allowed in Sheahan right now,” she stated apologetically. When asked what was going on, she explained “some alarm went off in the boiler room,” and continued, “they’re waiting for the fire department to say exactly what happened.”
A Marist security guard, Mike Woods, did not have much more to add than Marsden. “I’m not 100 percent sure what’s going on until I get the full word,” he stated at the time. At the very least, he was able to assure students that “it wasn’t a fire.”
Residents of freshman dorms are accustomed to evacuating from their rooms in the middle of the night due to fire alarms and drills. However, Sheahan is usually a quieter dorm, and this was neither a typical drill nor a typical fire. Those in Sheahan at the time were unsure how to react to the unfamiliar alarm.
Christine Mauro was in her room when the Carbon monoxide detector went off. “The first alarm was just like a single beep repeatedly, it wasn’t a fire alarm” Mauro describes. She goes on, saying, “no one was rushing out, no one was leaving because no one knew what it was.”
Students only took action once they heard the regular fire alarm a few minutes later. “Then I guess one of the RAs pulled the fire alarm because they knew what was going on,” Mauro explains.
“They had to,” another Sheahan resident, Charlotte Blatt, chimes in on the confusion surrounding the first alarm, “to get people out of the building.”
The pair explains that they then went next door to Leo Hall and waited to get let back into their own hall. After about 20 minutes, Mauro says, “the RD, Missy, said that it was CO2 and we had to go to the student center.”
While the freshmen in the building may not have known how to react, the residential staff have been trained in case of a similar emergency. “Our protocol is to first get everyone out of the building,” explains Sheahan Residential Assistant Alec Lee, “then we make sure the emergency staff have room to get their vehicles close to the building,” he goes on. The housing employee responded to the incident that night, but is unable to disclose any specific details.
Carbon monoxide, often referred to as the “silent killer,” is most dangerous because it can not be easily identified. “The symptoms are so non-specific to toxicity,” explains Michelle Surdan, a nursing student at Mount St. Mary’s in Newburgh. Carbon monoxide poisoning can cause headache, dizziness, nausea and vomiting. “[Symptoms] can resemble the flu and other infections,” says Surdan.
Normally, everyone would wait outside while the appropriate officials searched the building. In this case, Lee says that, “we thought it was a good idea to have our residents go to the Student Center, he explains, “we didn’t know how long it would take to look at the building.”
Once evacuated from their dorms and congregated in the student center, the residence of Sheahan Hall crowded around laptops, got food from the Cabaret and returned to their homework. “We just know that we have to stay here,” said Charlotte Blatt during their indefinite stay in the student center. “It could take an hour,” she said, “it could take all night.”
On the bright side, towards the end of their night, Sheahan residents got a personal concert from Time Check. The all male acapella group wanted an audience to practice some of their songs, and found that in the evacuated students.
Finally, Residential Assistant Marisa Proscia posted in the Sheahan 2015-2016 Facebook group, directing students back into their dorms. “Everyone can go back into the building,” she posted, at 11:02 pm. Since then, Marist security has yet to release any more information on the results of the investigation.