Feeling fiery: An open letter to the residents of Yates


Dear residents of Yates Hall,

Yates is a hall known for its loud noises and social residents, which I personally adore. There is no feeling like walking back into Yates on a Saturday night, hearing buzzing conversation and seeing your faces, familiar and unfamiliar.

With that said, I am going to set something straight: I should not be forced into seeing those faces outside the building at one in the morning on any given week night. One of the loud noises we are known for should not be a constantly blaring fire alarm. Although I think we can all agree on this, the number of false alarms we have had this school year say otherwise.

I appreciate that residents of Yates tend to be more outgoing and experimental than denizens of other freshman halls. Please feel free to experiment with whatever substances you would like; however, be conscious of how you try it.

Every single room in Yates is equipped with windows that have the incredible ability to be opened; if you must smoke inside, go to one and blow out. It is simple and will save the rest of us a lot of trouble. Additionally, do not misunderstand: vapes can and will set off our hall’s fire alarm.

Because of our social nature, citizens of Yates also tend to stay up late, leading to a greater likelihood of someone craving a hot, tasty bowl of popcorn or ramen past midnight. I am guilty of this myself, often taking the time to create a deliciously simple bowl of mac and cheese in the wee hours of the night.

If you, like me, feel the need to make yourself hot food past midnight, just make sure you pay attention to whatever it is you are cooking, ensuring that the food will not burn and release copious amounts of steam as you open your microwave. Eating burnt food is bad enough.

Do not force everyone else to take part in your sour experience as well by dragging them outside with you when the fire alarm goes off.

Some of you may be asking: “Since none of the reasons that false fire alarms have gone off in Yates seem to be genuinely life threatening, why bother caring about setting off the alarm?” Well, besides the fact that your fellow residents of Yates might have class early and need the sleep, you are incorrect in assessing that burnt popcorn is not life threatening.

By getting into an institution as prestigious as the College of William and Mary, I am assuming that we’ve all heard the fable of “The Boy Who Cried Wolf.” The last time I was greeted with the wonderful sound of a siren, a very good friend of mine elected to stay in bed and put on his headphones rather than venture outside, with confidence that he would be safe.

Luckily, in this case, he was correct. A day might come, however, where there is an actual fire in our home. If the false alarms persist, we may all become the boy in this situation.

I know there are a lot of us, and thus it makes sense that we should have more false alarms than other halls.With so many people, however, the odds of these frequent alarms desensitizing residents to a sound that can literally mean life or death increases just as much.

I know that, because we are the wonderful group of people we are, we can do better. I really do love seeing your faces, but let’s keep the odds of seeing all of them outside the building for false alarms as low as possible.

Email Anthony Madalone at asmadalone@email.wm.edu.


  1. As someone who earned two degrees from W&M and also served as a volunteer firefighter/EMT with the Williamsburg Fire Department for more than 4 years I just wanted to thank Anthony for his article. In addition to the “boy who cried wolf” scenario he laid out, please also consider that false alarms put fire service personnel at risk every time they take to the streets and also divert resources from other and potentially more serious emergencies. In the course of my time at WFD I responded to hundreds of alarms at the College, as well as several real fires and numerous medical emergencies. Emergency personnel have to treat each call with the same level of urgency.
    Tom Skiba BS 1982 MBA 1985


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