Fire Alarm Set Off During AP U.S. History Exam

Photo shows a school fire alarm. Photo Credit: Pxfuel (Creative Commons License)

AP (Advanced Placement) exams are undoubtedly pivotal moments in one’s high school career. They dictate if a student will be able to receive a college credit for the course they took, and they cost a large sum of money to take (approx $100). The AP exams are typically taken during May during the school day. However, this May, one AP exam was interrupted. The AP U.S. History (APUSH) exam is among one of the most popular AP exams taken. With over 100 students taking it this year, the amount of preparation and planning that went into the testing was intense. However, during the exam, a fire alarm was set off, forcing students to stop testing and evacuate the building.

On the morning of May 12, 2023, a fire alarm was set off. The cause of the fire alarm has been discovered to be from the woodshop. “We were microwaving salad tongs in order to steam the wood so that it could bend to create a spring action on the wood,” says woodworking teacher Lawrence Vielhauer. “We’ve done this before; we did this last year. However, this year I used a new microwave. We found out that two minutes was too long with the brand new microwave.”

What about the APUSH exams? What will happen to them? According to AP exam coordinator Alan Zimmerman, the tests will still be accepted as the proctors followed College Board guidelines, and Zimmerman was able to file an incident report with them as well. Zimmerman is responsible for receiving the AP exams as well as distributing them to the students. The College Board, the group responsible for the AP exams, has protocols in place for what to do in situations like these. Zimmerman says, “If I recall correctly, the official timer had begun in the large group room and approximately 10 minutes had elapsed. The timer in the library had started, but only about 3 minutes had elapsed. The disparity in starting times comes from the amount of time it took to read directions differing between rooms.” So although both groups of students taking the exam had already started, the proctors in both rooms stopped the clock immediately after hearing the fire alarm and instructed students to close their booklets, ensuring all students got their full time upon returning to the building.

The exams themselves were not too affected by the alarm. The testing was pushed back by an hour, but of course, students were given their full amount of time. Though one student according to Zimmerman, “…elected to take the late exam rather than continuing the regular exam because it would have ended too late in the day for a previously scheduled appointment.”

After talking with a few students, the general consensus was that they weren’t too affected by the fire alarm. There were still students frustrated by the time taken away from their classes, and students discussed the natural anxiety caused by the fire, but continued with the exam despite this. Zimmerman expressed, “Thus far, no student has told me they felt their test experience was negatively impacted by the alarm. However, if anyone is unhappy, they can definitely come and see me to discuss their options going forward.” Despite the unexpected interruption during the APUSH exam, students still received their full examination time and were able to successfully complete the exam.

Nicole Chen, '26
Nicole Chen is a freshman at J-DHS who writes a myriad of articles for RamPage. She hopes to have her week filled with clubs (which currently, it isn’t) and she obsesses over writing quick author’s bios.