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Langara’s alarm system sends mixed signals during arson attack

First alarm told students to stay put, a second told them to evacuate

VPD SWAT units stationed outside of Langara's T Building. Photo by Patrick Penner.
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Reported by Austin Everett

Students’ opinions on emergency preparedness at the college were divided as they weighed in on the deliberate arson attack at Langara on Monday.

Two alarms were heard Monday inside the school as a deliberate arson attack was underway in the T Building of Langara College. Students and staff were evacuated and sent home. Just after 4 p.m., suspect Nasradin Abdusamad Ali was arrested in Surrey by transit police. He has been charged with arson in relation to inhabited property, and one count of possession of incendiary materials. He made a brief court appearance in court in Vancouver yesterday.

Mahen Krishnakumar was in the student lounge on the fifth floor when an alarm sounded telling everyone in the building to stay where they were. The second-year bioinformatics student said the message had been sounding for about a minute or two when a fire erupted just a few feet away from him as he walked towards the stairs.

“It was close enough that we were able to feel the warmth,” Krishnakumar said.

He said he was disappointed in the alarm system telling everyone to stay put.

“There’s probably a different way to communicate this kind of situation. I hope Langara improves on that,” he said.

Henry Yang, a third-year chemistry student was in the classroom next to where the attack took place. He said that while the event could have been potentially chaotic and disastrous, the faculty and staff created an environment that helped ease the situation.

“The T Building staff did a great job of squashing the fire. It burned quickly, but was quickly squashed,” he said.

Yang said he felt well informed and prepared as there have been many planned emergency drills. He said the drills happen every other semester.

“My instructor was very calm. It was not chaotic at all,” Yang said.

Rohitdeep Sing who studies business management said that the alarm confused him but it was very clear that something had happened and that an incident was being investigated.

“It was clear. It was horrible too,” Sing said.

Sing is convinced the attack was a terrorist attack and urges the school to implement more security procedures because “anyone can come inside the campus.”

“It is scary, anything can happen at the school,” Sing said.

The department chair of nutrition and food services, Monica Molag said she hopes this is something the school can learn and grow from. She said that she has never been in a fire drill despite having worked at the school for a while.

The emergency preparedness department at Langara was unable to comment when contacted by The Voice. 

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