Recent Stamford courthouse evacuations caused by fire alarm tests
STAMFORD — Three Stamford Superior Court evacuations that occurred the past several weeks were caused by tests of the 17-year-old building’s fire suppression system that tripped various alarms, the Judicial Branch has said.
Judicial Branch spokesperson Rhonda Stearly-Hebert said numerous mandated five-year tests were performed on the fire and sprinkler systems, which put stress on all devices. As a result, the fire alarm went off during the testing and inspections, resulting in hundreds of staff and the public being escorted off the property and the parking garage being locked down until a determination could be made that it was safe to return.
Stearly-Hebert said the evacuations on Oct. 4, Oct. 10 and Nov. 4 were the only ones this year.
“The bottom line is that the Judicial Branch takes the safety of its buildings very seriously, follows code-mandated inspections and testing, and if at any point it is discovered that a valve or device should be replaced, it is replaced in a timely manner,” Stearly-Hebert said, adding that all the tests have been completed.
Stamford Criminal Defense Attorney Andrew Gould said he was about 15 minutes into starting evidence during a trial on the courthouse’s fourth floor when the alarm began sounding on Monday morning. Seconds later his courtroom was emptied and he and and his client took the stairwell down to the ground floor where they exited the building.
Gould said he had hoped for a better start to the trial. It was the first chilly day of the season and a lot of people did not have time to grab their coats, he added.
The evacuation lasted nearly an hour, during which time Gould went to the Bedford Street Diner to pass the time.
“It was a minor inconvenience and it is necessary for the greater good,” Gould said.
Attorney Frank Bevilacqua, who was also at the courthouse Monday morning, said he wondered why they would be testing the system in the morning when there are so many more people inside the seven-floor building that opened in 2002.
“You should be more careful in this environment. Evacuations can be frightening and if done too often, people will take a cavalier attitude and not take them seriously,” Bevilacqua said. “It also disrupts the courthouse schedule for the staff and cases in progress.”