Las Vegas Sun

September 20, 2014

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What happens in Vegas …:

Mr. Sun: Shrieking alarm test added angst to stranded travelers’ long night

Go back to last Thursday night: Big thunderstorms rolling across the valley forced a bunch of flights to be canceled at the airport.

Normally, people don’t stay overnight at McCarran. On this night, hundreds did.

It was also the night scheduled for a routine test of the fire alarm system.

It started at 2 a.m. Ascending woop-woop-woops interlaced with a constant buzzing and accompanied by strobe lights were topped off with conflicting messages — one blaring that the incident was being investigated and to “remain calm,” followed by the other not-so-satisfying announcement that this was only a test and the alarm could be disregarded.

If only.

The test went on, not for 15 minutes or 30 minutes or for an hour, but for three hours.

Woop! Woop! Woop! Buzz! Remain calm! Disregard!

Did we mention that it went on for three hours? And that the victims of this audio assault were travelers already in a bad mood because of canceled flights and having to spend the night at McCarran?

Woop! Woop! Woop! Buzz! Remain calm! Disregard!

Don Cooper, an electrical engineer flying back to Portland after visiting the Grand Canyon, says travelers grew so angry that they began calling the airport on their cellphones.

“I talked to a gentleman who said his name was Operator 172,” Cooper says. “I was pleading with him to have the alarm turned off.”

Operator 172 said the alarms were set to run until 5 a.m. “and there was absolutely no way he could change it.”

Some travelers downloaded applications onto their smartphones that measured decibel levels. This one came in at 95. Think circular saw or a jackhammer at 50 feet. Sustained exposure to 90 to 95 decibels can, according to experts, result in hearing loss.

“It was unbearable,” Cooper says.

Airport spokesman Chris Jones says it was unfortunate that stalled travelers were in the airport at the time of the alarm test; usually the place is all but empty between 2 and 5 a.m. But the test could neither be delayed nor halted once it began because of the two days of planning that involved the fire department.

“This was a required life-safety training event, and having people in the terminal at that time of night was an abnormal situation,” he says.

License for trouble

Glare from sunlight frames this provocative license plate.

Glare from sunlight frames this provocative license plate.

By almost any measure, it seems that the driver of this vehicle may be up to no good ...

Las Vegas, the predator

The Wall Street Journal this month wrote about the intense competition among cities to land conventions and the dollars that accompany them.

And although Las Vegas is the No. 1 trade show destination in North America, it didn’t get mentioned until the last paragraph of the story, when convention expert Heywood Sanders told the newspaper:

“So Atlanta steals from Boston, Orlando steals from Chicago and Las Vegas steals from everywhere.”

Visit Las Vegas and swing by K.C.

Fans of jazz are looking to Las Vegas to draw attention to a corridor of old buildings in downtown Kansas City, Mo., a Mutual Musicians Foundation National Historic Landmark.

That’s where musicians gather on Friday and Saturday nights for jam sessions that sometimes turn into gospel and flow over into Sunday morning church services.

And what’s this have to do with us?

Anita Dixon, vice president of the foundation, is asking Las Vegas tourism and entertainment officials to establish a musical exchange program between the cities.

“We know that people come from all over the world to Las Vegas for entertainment,” Dixon says. “What we want to do is build a connection with Las Vegas, maybe establish some tours from Las Vegas to Kansas City, to build awareness of our historic district.”

Specifically, she is hoping to capitalize on Las Vegas as a port-of-entry city for foreign travelers.

Why? She believes overseas travelers have a greater appreciation than their domestic counterparts for the contributions of black musicians to the jazz genre.

Need a drink, buddy?

You see it every time you watch a long-distance foot or bicycle race — the competitor coming up on a water station, grabbing a cup, sipping some or pouring it on his or her head to cool off.

Here’s the Las Vegas version of the drill:

A friend of mine was running along Las Vegas Boulevard on Saturday morning when he approached the “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign.

It was there that a woman, quite in her own Vegas zone, offered him a drink — from a 24-ounce can of Bud Light Lime.

Have you seen or heard something you want to pass along? Email [email protected]

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  1. "...But the test could neither be delayed nor halted once it began because of the two days of planning that involved the fire department..."

    If so, then both airport management and the LV fire department are incompetent. The Fire Chief needs to explain his LACK OF involvement in what could have been a dangerous and panic situation.