Fire Alarm Repercussions


Photo by: Sarah Bestor

Wyatt Thompson-Siporen, Reporter

The Fire Alarm.  As young children, we looked at the red box with reverence.  Foreboding and mysterious, no child dared venture near it, let alone purposefully set the alarm off.  However, the children got older, and a bold few pranksters in middle school, high school, and even in college, began to pull the fire alarm.  The kids sought attention, and infamy.  They delighted in themselves, for they were agents of chaos.  And the best part?  Nobody had been harmed by this seemingly jovial prank, and it cost the world nothing.  False. There are serious repercussions that follow the brazen act of fire alarm pranking that go unknown to much of the populace.

First, the pulling of fire alarms causes chaos. This chaos greatly increases the chance of an accident happening, either at the location where the fire alarm is pulled, or on the route that the fire truck(s) take to their destination.  Many, though few would admit it, become spooked at the sight and sound of sirens which can in turn cause drivers to panic, and therefore cause accidents.  If the fire alarm was indeed pulled as a joke, or with the intention of disrupting class, or for any reason other than the fact that there is a fire, then the person in question can be held responsible for the injuries of others.  In extreme cases, the prankster in question can be charged with manslaughter in the case of a death.

An additional cost of pulling a fire alarm is not surprisingly, actual money.  A typical call costs the fire department about $400, not including fuel for vehicles, and maintenance.  This can add up over a year, eventually costing the government, and therefore taxpayers a pretty penny.

Last, the fire alarm costs the time of responders.  When firefighters and possibly EMT’s are called out do deal with a fake emergency, they are unable to help people who may be in real peril.  On average, it takes firefighters and medics about an hour and a half to respond, analyze, deal with, and return to the station when a fake emergency occurs.  For each call, typically about 8 people are required to respond.  This includes 4-5 people per fire engine, 2 medics per ambulance, and 1 supervisor who oversees the operation.  This may not seem like a significant amount of people, but at any given time there are only about eleven persons at the fire station in Ashland.  In addition, out of the 8-9 calls per day that the fire station receives, it is common for them to overlap.  This means that in the event of a fake emergency, it is likely that victims of a real emergency were robbed of assistance from trained professionals.

In the past, many of us have been saved from a test, class, lecture, or presentation by the unmistakable and high pitched shriek of the fire alarm.  However, during this fleeting moment of mirth, students should also keep in mind the realities behind a fire alarm, real or fake.  A fire alarm causes chaos and accidents, and costs money, but most importantly, it takes time from the people responding to the emergency.



*Factual content and information of this article provided by Division Chief Marguerite Hickman*