Clemence got trapped in the Harmonie Building. After hours.

Journalism student Clemence Waller got trapped in the Harmonie Building after hours last week. She only got free after triggering the security alarm.
By Edward Szerekes

Lock-ins are rare

Lock-ins are rare occasions in RUG buildings, safety and security employees say. Porters at the Harmonie estimate around four per year. The library receptionist who sent the guard to rescue Clemence has worked for the RUG for thirty years. ‘In that time, I only remember two or three such cases’, he says.

The situation appears to be even better at the Zernike campus. Many buildings at Zernike contain laboratories with plants and animals that need to be taken care of every day. ‘We never have lock-ins here as there’s always someone in our premises who could let the trapped students out. Even on New Year´s eve’, explains Jack Jager, head of safety at the Faculty of Science and Engineering.

While the Harmonie is completely locked down every night and during the weekends, Zernike prefers a more open approach. ‘Lockdowns are generally safer, but they can also be more problematic. We have around 150 incidents a year, but never a trapped student’, Jager says.

It was nearing ten in the evening last Monday when Clemence Waller (24) was finishing up her work. Sitting in a cubicle at the far end of the Harmonie building reserved for journalism students, Clemence typed away furiously, racing a deadline. Deeply immersed in her work, the French student was only roused by the sound of a security warning urging everyone to leave before the Harmonie closed.

Alone in the dark

‘I started packing and then got up to leave. But when I walked up to the door leading towards the reception area, it wouldn’t open’, Clemence recounts. ‘I spotted the guard at the end of the corridor on the other side. I started banging at the door and shouting, but he disappeared.’

Clemence made her way to the door on the other side of the area, only to find it locked too. Then the reality of her situation dawned on her. ‘It was funny – hilarious, even – but it was ten at night and I was hungry and just wanted to go home’, she says.

At that point the security warning asked her to leave again. ‘I found myself arguing with the voice: “I wish I could!”’

She called the Harmonie reception desk. Nothing. ‘I rang them six times and left two messages on the voicemail. But no one picked up’, Clemence remembers. ‘I banged at the doors again, but I knew there was no one else left in the building.’

Security alarm

Then she returned to the journalism section of the building, only to hear a beeping noise – she had triggered a security alarm. ‘It just kept beeping and beeping, but no one was coming. It was completely dark outside. I was texting my friends for help. One of them suggested calling the library.’

The library receptionist assured Clemence that a guard was on his way, but after 15 minutes of waiting in complete darkness, there was still no sight of a rescuer. ‘I called the library again, and then I finally spotted a guard with a flashlight’, says Clemence.

Clemence was finally freed at a quarter past ten. She thinks her half-hour in the dark was a ‘cool experience. I wasn’t really scared as the worst thing that could have happened to me was to sleep on a table on campus. I almost felt like a rebel, but I was starving.’



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