False fire alarm

South has about one false fire alarm a year, usually due to kitchen non-fires. When there was a fire alarm at 6:50am last Friday, many students stayed in their rooms the whole time. I do not think this is a coincidence.

I took time to get fully dressed, and even then I was one of the first students in the parking lot. Only a third of the students in the dorm came to the parking lot during the 10-minute alarm. Some students came out of their rooms briefly, saw Michaela waving her burnt toast around, and went back into their rooms. The rest either slept through the alarm (unlikely, given how loud it is) or decided to stay in bed.

In California, it is illegal to "impair the effective operation of a [fire-protection system], so as to threaten the safety of any occupant or user of the structure in the event of a fire". So it's clear that we can't reduce the sensitivity of alarms in the dorm just because we find false alarms annoying. But what if we think a reduction in the false alarm rate would make residents take fire alarms more seriously? Could we argue that making the detector near the kitchen less sensitive would make the alarm system "less impaired"?

Cornell University has taken steps to reduce false alarm rates in dorms. They were able to do so with the encouragement of the Ithaca Fire Department and presumably without breaking any New York laws. This is encouraging, even though I live in California.

3 Responses to “False fire alarm”

  1. Joe Says:

    If people can’t be bothered to take one potentially false fire alarm per year seriously, then your dorm has a problem. But it could be worse; I know a school in South Carolina that has roughly one false alarm pull every week! And with only six dorms, a significant fraction of the residents are put out every time.

  2. alanjstr Says:

    Maybe you need a Fire Alarm counter on your blog.

  3. Justin Says:

    If your having problems with false alarms by some one pulling it, maybe your dorm should invest in the “STI STOPPER II ” lids. My high school had them and before you can pull the actual fire alarm switch, you must lift this polycarbon plastic lid, and when lifted it sounds a ear piercing horn from inside the lid and alerts people that some one is about to pull it. The horn shuts back off but only when you put the lid back on by hitting it pretty hard. (That is 100 % normal though) My JR> HIgh had them and I lifted one once and was suspended because 1- i didnt know how to get it back on to shut it off. 2- People already knew I wanted to pull the fire alarm. I hope this helps.