Queen’s residences are currently facing one of the worst years for malicious fire alarm pulling to date, with this year on track to beat figures set in 2019-20 and 2020-21.
From Sept. 1 to Nov. 24, there were 60 fire alarm activations in residence, 44 of which were due to student behaviour.
According to Queen’s Residence Life, 30 of these activations—50 per cent overall—were purposeful and malicious in nature.
“Many of the malicious alarm activations appear to be connected to the pursuit of a jacket bar. We absolutely condemn this behaviour,” Kate Murray, Director of Residence Life, wrote in an email to The Journal.
“Tampering with fire equipment or pulling an alarm as a prank is a Criminal Code offence and a serious violation of the Residence Community Standards that can lead to eviction.”
On the night of Nov. 20, McNeill, Victoria, Leonard, and Watts Hall all experienced a false alarm within 15 minutes, resulting in the entire career staff apparatus of Kingston Fire & Rescue being dispatched to the university.
The biggest risk these false alarms pose to the community, Murray said, is diverting essential resources away from actual emergencies.
“During [Nov. 19 and 20], we had seven medicals, two actual fires, one gas leak and an elevator entrapment. The following day, we had four motor vehicle accidents we had to respond to,” Delbert Blakney, Fire Inspector at Kingston Fire & Rescue, told The Journal in an interview on Nov. 25.
He pointed to these incidents as examples of real emergencies that a false alarm could distract firefighters from.
“We’re concerned about complacency. We’re concerned about wear and tear on our vehicles. And also, we’re concerned because most firefighter injuries are [from] car accidents, so we don’t like to be racing down the streets when we don’t need to be.”
According to Blakney, it isn’t just students that can become complacent to fire alarms during an uptick of false pulls, but firefighters too.
“There’s been firefighters in other municipalities where that same kind of mentality has got people hurt, because they’ve gone into a building and then been met with fire conditions they weren’t expecting,” Blakney said.
In response to this year’s increase in false fire alarms, the AMS, Engineering Society (EngSoc), Residence Society (ResSoc), Residence Life, Campus Security, and Environmental Health and Safety have met to develop new strategies for mitigating false alarm activations.
Queen’s is also working with Kingston Fire & Rescue to educate students on the impact false alarms have on students and firefighters.
In 2019, ResSoc installed anti-tamper dye on hundreds of alarms in residence so alarm pullers could be more
Those caught triggering fire alarms on purpose may not only face consequences from the university, but criminal charges as well.
“We emphasize with all students that in a communal living environment, the impact of individual behaviour, whether merely careless or wilfully disruptive, can have significant consequences and students are expected to act responsibly and mitigate the impacts of their actions on other residents,” Murray said.
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