Malicious fire alarms in residence dwindle

Kingston Fire and Rescue says they haven’t attended to one prank call yet this year

This year thus far, there have been no malicious fire alarms in any Queen’s residences, according to Campus Security.

Malicious residence alarms have been a problem in the past, since firefighter units have to be diverted from potentially covering other fires, in order to come to campus.

In Nov. 2010, one such diversion caused a fatality. According to Campus Security, 25 malicious fire alarms were pulled last year, 13 taking place in Victoria Hall.

It represented an increase from the 2011-12 school year, where only four fire alarms in total were pulled all year. However, it was still lower than the peak of 39 malicious fire alarms in 2010. Kingston Fire & Rescue (KFR) and Residence Life started a joint initiative in 2011 to educate first years on the dangers of false fire alarms in residences.

Chauncey Kennedy, manager of Residence Life, said the organization expected few malicious fire alarms during September.

“This number is not only consistent with our expectations,” he said, “but representative of the fact that our residents appreciate the nature and importance of having a well-functioning system.”

He said the measure for malicious fire alarms include inappropriately activating a pull station, discharging an extinguisher and tampering with life-safety equipment.

“We have been successful on numerous occasions in establishing those responsible,” he said.

Kennedy said that Residence Life also conducts educational programming during Orientation Week, as well as during Fire Prevention Week, which runs from Oct. 7 to Oct. 12, in order to prevent malicious alarms. The programming includes bulletin board materials and planned fire drills.

Paul Patry, director of fire prevention and assistant chief at KFR, said he’s also happy to see that malicious fire alarms have been dropping since 2010.

“I think it puts the students in a better light in their community,” he said.

He said the educational programs can be given most of the credit for the change. “We’ve got years of evidence in terms of statistics — pick a period, let’s say between 2000 and 2010. Things were static or getting worse,” he said.

Since the education program began, Patry said, there was a “shift in culture” and incidents began to go down.

“It got it through that [malicious fire alarms] endanger the lives of students, as well as others, because that really does break complacency,” he said.

The project, according to Patry, is a combination of a public education program and the distribution of educational materials.

He said the fire department was present at Queen’s in the Park and Orientation Week events, and distributed pamphlets at the Lazy Scholar and other first-year hangouts. The campaign, he said, emphasizes that Queen’s is part of the larger Kingston community as well as the dangers of false fire alarms.

“It was about building respect with both parties,” he said.

Quinlan Hickey, who lives in residence, said the emphasis on the dangers of false fire alarms during the residence and faculty orientations played an important role.

“Everyone talked about it so much, and everyone was so scared that it was going to happen, that no one actually did it,” Hickey, Sci ’17, said.

She said her don told her floor that a false fire alarm caused a death in 2010, which impacted their decisions.

“It turns it from being something funny to something real.”

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