Safety concerns over repeated fire alarm pranks in halls

By Christine Blom
November 12, 2004

Standing outside of House 2 at 4 a.m., there were approximately 70 out of 85 residents, half-asleep, waiting to find out what was going on inside and what had triggered the alarm.
On the second floor of the house, the fire alarm was never heard. The poor installation and placement of the alarms led to the possibility of 15 people not waking up or becoming aware that the house could be burning down.
“I had no idea that the fire alarm ever went off,” Lauren Smart, sophomore biology major, said. “My little sister was visiting.” Smart’s sister said she heard the alarm, but she did not think it was a fire alarm and went back to sleep. Smart, along with her sister and her boyfriend, as well as her roommate were all left sleeping.
In the room next door, two other girls were sleeping when they, luckily, woke up to the sound of Public Safety banging on the doors trying to make sure there was no one left in the room.
“We never even heard Public Safety banging on the door,” Smart said. “I don’t know what we would have done if it had been a real fire.”
This alarm was one of the false alarms that are typical on “Thirsty Thursdays” at Cabrini College. This is a very big concern for many of the offices on campus including Public Safety, Residence Life and Facilities.
“We need to stop this kind of destructive behavior on campus,” Charlie Schaffner, director of public safety, said. “It is important that students stop pulling the alarms and using the fire extinguishers.”
According to Schaffner, every time an extinguisher is wasted it costs another $45 to replace it. Last year, it was reported that $5,000 went to replacing and filling the tanks. Another problem with students using these safety devices for pranks is that in the event that there truly is a fire, there will be no way to put it out.
In the past, Cabrini has seen an instance in which there was no extinguisher available. “A few years ago, there was a small fire in the apartments. When a RA went down the hall to get the fire extinguisher, there was nothing in the case,” Schaffner said. “This put the rest of the residents in danger and could have caused some major damage. We do not want that to happen again.”

There are some things that students can do to promote fire safety around campus. One thing is to avoid propping doors. When students do this, it messes up the alarm systems and they have to be reset.
Another thing, which many female students are guilty of, is lighting candles and incense. It is one thing for the dorms to smell nice, but it is another thing when they are not carefully watched and are not put out.
Finally, one other habit that is extremely dangerous is smoking in the rooms; being one of the most likely causes of a fire, residents are advised not to smoke.
According to the facilities staff, there has been a new fire alarm installed in House 2, which have been triggered by hair straighteners, malfunctioning hot-water heaters and the temperature of the laundry room.
“We need everyone’s help in preventing this type of vandalism and destruction around the campus,” Schaffner said. “Students can report any signs of a fire hazard so that they can be prevented in the future.”

Video Crew: Craig Vagell, Kelsey Kuhwald and Andy Blecha

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Christine Blom

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