Of course if they were testing a new style fire alarm, then no doubt they built it just because they understood how little attention many of us pay to fire alarms
In the book "Influence: The Power of Persuasion" ,Robert Cialdini talks about "following the crowd's example" (along with other ways we're subconsciously influenced). One of his examples is even more graphic - where a number of people stood in their apt windows (in NY?) and watched a woman get murdered without doing a thing to help her (because they could see all the other people watching and doing nothing). He believes that it is an instinctual mechanism we use to find the "right" behavior - by checking out other's behavior.
He suggested that you could affect people in these types of situations by asking each one specifically to help you. So rather than the general "Hey everyone, there's a fire, lets get out of here" saying "You, in the green shirt, let's go, there's a fire" or maybe "You, in the red shirt, go find someone and ask them if there's a really a fire"
That's a whole different issue than catching yourself in the "act" of following the crowd though.