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Thread: The Springfield Elementary fire alarm system



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    Pin Pal wiley207's Avatar
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    The Springfield Elementary fire alarm system

    I couldn't help but notice, after recently watching "To Cur With Love," that for some reason, ever since Al Jean took over (I think), the fire alarm at Springfield Elementary is just the school bells! I don't know why they do that. "The Simpsons" usually is supposed to act more like (or satire) live-action, yet just using the school bell as a fire alarm is a bit absurd.
    Now, I do know that bells as fire alarms were more common in the past (until maybe the 1970s), and that Canada still uses bells, but even then at schools, the fire alarm bells would sound noticeably different from the school bell (in most cases, the fire alarm bell would have a larger, louder gong than the regular school bell, and may be accompanied by a strobe or some other visual signal if it's a post-1970s system.)

    So I think it might be easier if they just use a different bell sound for Springfield Elementary's fire alarm, or even some kind of buzzer, like the schools I went to had! (Springfield Elementary has a lot of outdated stuff, and many of my schools have very old, obsolete fire alarm systems that use said buzzers, so Springfield Elementary probably has an old fire alarm system as well!)
    They also seem a bit inconsistent on how the alarm is set off at times. I know in "24 Minutes" and "Postcards from the Wedge," they use an old-style break-glass station, but in some other episodes like "Bart's Girlfriend," "I am Furious Yellow" and the aforementioned "To Cur With Love," they have normal fire alarm pull stations that obviously appear to be based off those older Simplex ones:

    (Plus, these can often be seen installed inside hallways and classrooms throughout the school.)

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    Pin Pal musa's Avatar
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    Springfield elementary is a very poor school, maybe they can't afford a better fire alarm.

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    Well, in the UK we just have the 'smash glass' fire alarms. To me they seem a lot better than the 'pull lever' ones.

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    It is very common for fire alarms to sound like bells instead of buzzers on movies and television.

    The fire alarm in Kindergarden Cop sounded like a bell.

    I always assumed this is done in entertainment so people don't mistake the fire alarm in the presentation as a real emergency especially in a movie theater.

    However, there was a buzzer sounding one in the Beavis and Butthead episode "Wet Behind the Rears"

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    The fire alarms in the UK always sound like bells, though. Strange...

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    Something of a lurker Doh's Avatar
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    At all the schools I've been to, the fire alarm is the school bells running on an infinite loop, but as Gallade said above me, maybe that's just a UK thing :P

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    Quote Originally Posted by wiley207 View Post
    I couldn't help but notice, after recently watching "To Cur With Love," that for some reason, ever since Al Jean took over (I think), the fire alarm at Springfield Elementary is just the school bells! I don't know why they do that. "The Simpsons" usually is supposed to act more like (or satire) live-action, yet just using the school bell as a fire alarm is a bit absurd.
    Now, I do know that bells as fire alarms were more common in the past (until maybe the 1970s), and that Canada still uses bells, but even then at schools, the fire alarm bells would sound noticeably different from the school bell (in most cases, the fire alarm bell would have a larger, louder gong than the regular school bell, and may be accompanied by a strobe or some other visual signal if it's a post-1970s system.)

    So I think it might be easier if they just use a different bell sound for Springfield Elementary's fire alarm, or even some kind of buzzer, like the schools I went to had! (Springfield Elementary has a lot of outdated stuff, and many of my schools have very old, obsolete fire alarm systems that use said buzzers, so Springfield Elementary probably has an old fire alarm system as well!)
    They also seem a bit inconsistent on how the alarm is set off at times. I know in "24 Minutes" and "Postcards from the Wedge," they use an old-style break-glass station, but in some other episodes like "Bart's Girlfriend," "I am Furious Yellow" and the aforementioned "To Cur With Love," they have normal fire alarm pull stations that obviously appear to be based off those older Simplex ones:

    (Plus, these can often be seen installed inside hallways and classrooms throughout the school.)
    Well, three things.

    1. it has to sound funny. This sound does that job fairly well.

    2. Travis usually has to create every single sound on post, from scratch. A good executive producer is smart enough to know that sounds can be recycled for longevity. If it helps the joke, I think it should stay in the final mix.

    3. Let's assume Springfield never had the budget for different types of alarms. It fits with the flexible reality of the show.

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    a whiz with cold drinks Frightened Inmate No. 2's Avatar
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    Who cares?
    Quote Originally Posted by Tiny Sandford II View Post
    While not humorous, would be cool if someone actually put this in their sig.


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    pineapple shoes Dark Homer's Avatar
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    I'm guessing you're the guy who wrote the fanscript about the fire alarm system a few months back...

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    Stonecutter Lance.Uppercut's Avatar
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    I don't recall my small Michigan elementary school having alarms like those. Our fire drill noise wasn't so much a bell, more an "evacuation drill" noise - a loud, piercing boom that rang off every three seconds or so. Perhaps the animators just designed the fire alarm to be like what they saw in the schools around the animation studio - schools in Burbank. In "We're On the Road to D'ohwhere", I think the school even had sprinklers, which seems excessive for an elementary school.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lance.Uppercut View Post
    In "We're On the Road to D'ohwhere", I think the school even had sprinklers, which seems excessive for an elementary school.
    Maybe not; some of the newer/renovated elementary and middle schools in my hometown have sprinklers. In fact, they even plan on putting in sprinklers at my old middle school next summer, built in 1957 and with an EXTREMELY OLD fire alarm system they plan to finally replace (even older than whatever Springfield Elementary has!) Springfield Elementary also had a sprinkler system being activated in "See Homer Run," when Homer's fireworks display in the auditorium ignited the curtains and set off the bell system.
    I'm betting Springfield Elementary has a Simplex fire alarm system judging by the pull stations. The school I went to for kindergarten also had an older one from the 1970s, but they have combination break-glass/pull-lever stations!

    But their main fire alarm control panel is a much newer Simplex model from maybe 10 years ago; Springfield Elementary probably still has an outdated fire alarm panel from the 1960s or 1970s!

    And Dark Homer, yes I was the one who wrote that fanscript about Springfield Elementary's fire alarm upgrade. When I was told they were planning on replacing the alarms at my middle school and the aforementioned school I went to for kindergarten, that made me wonder what it'd be like if Springfield Elementary were to get a new fire alarm system?
    That same K-8 school I went to for kindergarten even has an identical sister school on the other side of town, but the colors inside and out are a bit different, and they don't have a French class with a stereotypical Frenchman as the teacher

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    Release the hounds... Sinister Burns's Avatar
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    My school just uses the normal bells as a fire alarm (and as the lockdown alarm too). It's a pretty well-off school, too, so I don't think it's anything to do with money. When you can have one machine perform multiple functions equally well there is no need for more machines.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sinister Burns View Post
    My school just uses the normal bells as a fire alarm (and as the lockdown alarm too). It's a pretty well-off school, too, so I don't think it's anything to do with money. When you can have one machine perform multiple functions equally well there is no need for more machines.
    Ah, I see you are from New Zealand, so that may be why. Here in America, it's kind of a requirement the fire alarms be separate from the school bells. But here in Brockton, they do use the school bells as the lockdown alarm though (if they have them, some schools just use the intercom with a time tone as the bell.) They reserve the fire alarm for fire-related emergencies and drills, and the school bell for any other kind of emergency.

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    a whiz with cold drinks Frightened Inmate No. 2's Avatar
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    Are you a fireman or something?


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    Quote Originally Posted by Frightened Inmate No. 2 View Post
    Are you a fireman or something?
    Nope; I know someone who works with fire alarms, and plus in my college days, I was the ADA-compliance officer of our helping hands club. Fire alarm systems are one of the many things in buildings that have to be ADA-compliant. And I can assure that Springfield Elementary School is practically NOT ADA-compliant in many ways (not just with the ADA of 1975, but all the other later ones!) My college campus was mostly compliant, but my high school pretty much wasn't!

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    Stonecutter Diversity Pumpkin's Avatar
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    link to fire alarm fanfiction

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    a whiz with cold drinks Frightened Inmate No. 2's Avatar
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    Just when you think you know everything about a show, you get some crazy bit of information like this.

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    CG Rigger/Freelance Designer Robotics's Avatar
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    Interesting. It's strange that topics this specific are brought up. I never noticed the minor details, plus, I'm no alarm specialist either.

  22. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Diversity Pumpkin View Post
    link to fire alarm fanfiction
    Here it is:
    http://www.nohomers.net/showthread.p...rt-s-Fire-Yell!

  23. #20


    I don't blame "Travis" for recycling the school bell. He could be in some deep shit for activating an alarm in the absence of fire.

    What do you think they put in the Bug Juice?
    Bugs?
    No they don't. Come on...shut up.

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    Quote Originally Posted by FlimpsonsChristmasBoogie View Post
    I don't blame "Travis" for recycling the school bell. He could be in some deep shit for activating an alarm in the absence of fire.
    The other option could be to buy an old/unused fire alarm signal off eBay or something (or even get it from a renovation or upgrade; I got some interesting stuff from my college during their renovations), and activate it just using a couple of 9-volt batteries. Or, if he's at a building that he is notified will be having a fire drill or test the alarms, he can just record that and they'd understand (one time I recorded a fire alarm test at the nearby middle school for MY sound effects library!)

  25. #22
    Stonecutter Lance.Uppercut's Avatar
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    @wiley207, I assume the first act of the "Bart has ADD" episode in S11 goes down as one of your favorites.

  26. #23
    الذهاب المغيرين Two-Bit's Avatar
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    You have a weird affinity for alarms and bells, I've noticed that about you in the few years I've known you(from other sites as well as here).

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    There are probably weirder things to get fixated on.

    But this is up there.
    "I shouldn't have eaten that packet of powdered gravy I found in the parking lot..."

  28. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by comeau View Post
    You have a weird affinity for alarms and bells, I've noticed that about you in the few years I've known you(from other sites as well as here).
    Not necessarily; I do have a vast knowledge though, due to having a friend that works with them.
    And Lance, as for that "Bart has ADD" episode, the real highlight of the first act for me was that hilarious fire safety play with Ned and Maude as hippies, but still not one of my favorite episodes...

  29. #26


    I noticed it, since I'm going to be an engineering student, and lately I've been fascinated by fire alarm systems. It's interesting I found this thread, because I also noticed the inconsistency. What's also strange is that in "To cur with love," in the scene where Bongo pulled the alarm, it was roughly 30 years ago since Homer was in first grade. When you say the "normal" school bell, Springfield Elementary hasn't had one in recent episodes, outside of the chalkboard gags. Some of the early seasons, in episodes like Kamp Krusty (where there was a bell in a tower, like a church) or Bart the Genius, it rang to start the day.

    And it's not unusual for schools to use bells as disaster alarms. My preschool had that, and there was no ringing for any other time. At my elementary school, the signals for the beginning and end of the school day were in the form of quiet beeps over the loudspeaker. The fire alarm was a bell, and the pull stations were rather unusual; if I can find a picture of one I'll post it, I think they date back to when the building went up in the sixties. I've seen this type in many NYC schools, which I think also have bells as alarms. Yet, I also saw in the principal's office a button labeled "fire signal," which I think was normally used. Then we occasionally had "shelter drills," in which the alarm sounded alike but the gongs went off in sets of five, not three. The bells were also used to call the custodians, and would irritate me, but we knew it wasn't a fire alarm because it sounded different. That was definitely activated from the office.

    Meanwhile, my high school used modern buzzers with blinking lights as alarms, which were made by Simplex. It was a public school under the same system, but the building had formerly been a warehouse and was converted in 1993, so many of its utilities were not like those in conventional NYC schools. The pull stations had T-Bars and were recessed into the wall, and you had to open an opaque door to access it. When I got to see the initiation of a drill, I noticed that it was NOT like Springfield Elementary; after the lever was pulled, there was a hiatus of 2-3 seconds during which the panel beeped before the actual alarm set off throughout the building. On the instructions I read that to start the "instant alarm" without the delay, one would need to insert their authorized key into the hole; there was once an actual fire and the alarm had a different rhythm than during drills, I wonder if the latter option was used.

    By the way, I noticed some other things about contraptions in the Simpsons that are not realistic, like the subway turnstile in "Moonshine River" or the oven the man got locked inside during the primitive fight in "Homer Goes to Prep School."

  30. #27
    Perfect Organism AngusCastle's Avatar
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    Springfield Elementary (in the later seasons) has always been a crap hole. So that's why they don't have better fire alarms

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    Administrator Sam's Avatar
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    this may be my new fav thread of all time


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    I love boobies! Financial Panther's Avatar
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    It certainly is unique. Fire alarms scare me.
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    Quote Originally Posted by rascalflattsrutgers View Post
    When you say the "normal" school bell, Springfield Elementary hasn't had one in recent episodes, outside of the chalkboard gags. Some of the early seasons, in episodes like Kamp Krusty (where there was a bell in a tower, like a church) or Bart the Genius, it rang to start the day.

    And it's not unusual for schools to use bells as disaster alarms. My preschool had that, and there was no ringing for any other time.
    The schools in my city that actually use bells also use them as the lockdown alarm. The way it generally is, at Brockton's schools, they have a separate fire alarm system for fire-related emergencies and drills, and the school bell or the intercom for lockdown and other emergencies.

    I still sometimes hear the school bell ring on the show like when it cuts to inside the hallway; they've done that for quite a bit (like in "Bart's Girlfriend.") One bit involving the school bell I liked was in "Skinner's Sense of Snow," when Principal Skinner counts down to the final bell (it reminded me of how I'd sometimes mentally count down until the school bell or tone would sound when in class when checking my watch.)
    In fact, the bell sound used in the intro and in pre-Scully episodes sounds like some of the exterior bells at the schools I went to for kindergarten and junior high!

    Then there was also in "Crook and Ladder," where Springfield's "fire siren" was just the school bell sound. They could have just used an actual civil defense siren sound, or at least have characters refer to it as the "fire bell."
    And then there is the common sound effect goof-up (in the original and Scully eras at least) where diesel locomotives on trains have steam whistles! (Like in "Homer the Heretic," "Kill the Alligator and Run" and "Simpsons Tall Tales.)



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