Oct 222002
Authors: Kyle Endres

Stop! Drop! Roll! Never mind, this fire alarm is another false one.

False or malicious fire alarms have become a common occurrence at CSU residence halls, which is an extremely dangerous situation, authorities say.

“People don’t really stop and think of the consequences of pulling an alarm,” said Jim Pietrangelo, company officer for Poudre Fire Authority. “Somebody else could suffer while we’re responding to a malicious alarm.”

The most imminent danger when a false alarm is pulled is that it weakens the response time to other parts of the city, Pietrangelo said. When there is an alarm in a high-rise building, such as Westfall Hall or Durward Hall, PFA usually sends four fire engines, two ladder trucks, a battalion chief and a fire inspection coordinator. These trucks come from various parts of the city, which means if there is an emergency in that station’s area, help must come from a station that is further away.

“Malicious alarms effectively disrupt the level of service for real emergencies if they’re going on at the same time,” Pietrangelo said.

Sending that much equipment and personnel can also be very expensive. An average high-rise fire alarm response usually costs around $1000, Pietrangelo said.

The second problem with frequent false fire alarms is that it lulls people into complacency, Pietrangelo said. Many residents do not leave their rooms when the alarm goes off because they think it will be another false alarm.

“The frequency that the alarms occur there puts people that live in the residence halls at risk,” he said. “Obviously, if (people) don’t evacuate and it’s real, it puts them in danger and it puts us in danger.”

Travis Huntington, a sophomore technical journalism major, always leaves when there is an alarm but also knows many people stay in their rooms.

“I know there’s a lot of people who just don’t leave (their rooms),” Huntington said.

This complacency is especially dangerous in a situation such as the one at Seton Hall University a couple years ago, said Ken Quintana, director of safety and security for Housing and Food Services.

On Jan. 19, 2000, a fire broke out in a Seton Hall residence hall, killing three students and injuring 58. The fire alarm was the 18th in a five-month span, and many students thought the real fire was another fake.

People who pull fire alarms maliciously can get in serious trouble, said Sgt. Keith Turney of the CSU Police Department. The penalty for pulling an alarm can be as much as $750, in addition to any restitution requested by PFA. Those punished can also spend as many as six months in jail.

“We can’t just act like it was a prank, it’s a serious crime,” Turney said. “I’m sure we’ll prosecute to the fullest extent when we catch somebody. We’re getting better at our ability to catch people.”

Residence hall residents do not seem to find the fake alarms humorous.

“It’s very annoying because it’s very cold outside when you have to wait 30 to 45 minutes,” said Nicolette Skowron, a freshmen engineering major.

Huntington does not understand why someone would want to pull a fire alarm maliciously.

“I don’t find (fake fire alarms) funny at all,” Huntington said. “I don’t understand the appeal of it.”

-Edited by Colleen Buhrer and Becky Waddingham

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