This past Saturday, residents of Bishop Roberts suffered through their tenth false fire alarm this semester. While pulling a false fire alarm is a serious offense, the circumstances surrounding this particular alarm made it much graver.
As we exited the building, we were alarmed to see a stretcher sitting in the lobby. We quickly learned that a student on an upper floor needed urgent medical attention, and the EMTs had just arrived when the fire alarm went off. Because the elevators shut down when there is an alarm, the EMTs were unable to take the stretcher upstairs; additionally, the students moving out of the building significantly hindered the EMTs in reaching the student. As a result, the student had to be carried down the stairs in a blanket.
Though I’m unsure how long this process would take under normal circumstances, I think it’s safe to say that the fire alarm slowed the student’s removal considerably. Had that student died or been seriously impaired because of the delay, that damage would be on the heads of the perpetrators.
Although the perpetrators were probably unaware of the situation, the results of their actions show that pulling an alarm can be so much more than a joke or prank. Although the student has recovered, the question of “what if” still remains. Is pulling the alarm really worth risking someone else’s life?
While some may view my accusations as harsh and point out that this was an unusual situation, I argue that even in a normal situation pulling a fire alarm has serious consequences. First of all, it disrupts students’ schedules and deprives them of sleep. Intentionally forcing students to get up in the middle of the night is incredibly disrespectful and disruptive.
Secondly, each time the alarm is pulled, it is costing Greencastle money, as the fire department is required to send a truck out. Additionally, there’s a chance that a real emergency might pop up while the fire department is tending to a false alarm, and that truck would be unable to help. It’s definitely not good to make enemies out of our community or service members just for the sake of a joke.
Lastly, and probably most importantly, the frequent false alarms are desensitizing students. No one wants to leave their bed at 2:00 in the morning to go shiver outside, and the more times the alarm is pulled, the more tempting it will be for students to stay inside and sit out the alarms, especially if they think it’s false. In the case of a real fire, this could have devastating consequences.
So what’s the solution? Cameras are supposedly on the way, but that might not be enough to identify perpetrators, who are typically not BR residents. If the alarms continue, I might think it appropriate to restrict access to the tunnel that connects Longden and BR, as this is likely how most of the pullers get into BR. Though the issue of shared laundry facilities presents a problem, that too can be fixed: with the closing of the Den kitchen, there will now be space for Longden to have their own laundry facilities. While it’s not a perfect fix, I think the security it would provide would be worth any inconveniences.
There’s a chance that this still might not be enough, and that’s why I’m turning to you. If your friends are considering pulling an alarm, please, be the cool one by telling them why this isn’t a good idea. If you see someone pull an alarm, please tell an RA so that the situation can be addressed.
There are so many other pranks that are legal and not nearly so damaging and disruptive; please be smart and act for the good of our campus.