Self-isolating Leeds students mix with others during fire alarms

One flat got coronavirus the day after a fire alarm

Self-isolating Leeds students are mixing with their healthy peers during fire alarms at halls of residences.

The University of Leeds advises that students should social distance during fire alarms, but in reality, this just doesn’t happen.

A first year student at Leodis Hall, who requested to remain anonymous, described how he and his flat contracted coronavirus the day after a fire alarm. He told The Leeds Tab: “There were a fire alarm around 3am at Leodis [during] which all the COVID flats mixed with us going down the stairs as you were not allowed to use the lifts.

“We developed symptoms the next day and tested positive.”

He adds: “The people isolating didn’t wear masks or anything either so didn’t help.”

Another first year student, who also requested to remain anonymous, described a fire alarm in the early hours of the morning at IQ Leeds back in December.

He said: “We weren’t told any steps to take when the alarm goes off apart from meet at the designated fire area, there were no extra steps or separate areas for if you had tested positive or were isolating as far as we knew.

“On the way out, the manager of the accommodation told us that it was a practice fire drill, so we all headed out to the designated area and they didn’t separate isolating flats from non-isolating flats.

“We couldn’t social distance as the designated spot was on a road and there were cars moving on it so we had to stick to the path which made it impossible to stay apart.

“We hadn’t been told that [masks] were compulsory in a fire drill either however my flat wore them.”

He adds: “They made us all mingle during the pandemic even though it could’ve risked people potentially getting infected.”

Buried at the very  bottom of the University’s coronavirus and accommodation FAQ page, there is a line about what to do in the event of a fire alarm if you are self-isolating. It reads: “In the event of a fire alarm, please evacuate the building as you would normally, but where possible, keep at least two metres away from other people.”

In spite of this, many students like Katie, a first year at Leodis Hall, don’t know what to do if they have coronavirus and the fire alarm went off.

“I’d be so stuck between staying in and protecting others versus going outside and protecting myself!” Katie told The Leeds Tab.

Katie’s experiences of fire alarms in halls this year have been somewhat chaotic. She said: “In fire drills there was just everybody congregating in a big crowd, the only attempt at social distancing was probably when they let us in in groups of flats.”

A spokesperson for the University of Leeds said: “Fire alarms are sounded each term for all University residences as part of our safety procedures.

“Unlike our usual termly fire drills, all students are currently asked to remain in their flats. Students are requested not to evacuate their building to help maintain social distances from those outside their household.

“We email students a day in advance to notify them of the time and date of the drill.

“During actual fire alarms, all students should evacuate their accommodation and make their way to their appropriate meeting point.

“Fire evacuation instructions are posted in all University residences and on the back of most bedroom doors. Where possible, students are asked to adhere to Government guidelines regarding social distancing.”

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