Archive for the 'Broken' Category

False fire alarm

Saturday, October 11th, 2003

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.