False fire alarms are costing Cal State Fullerton real money

In Campus News, Local News, News, Top Stories
(Hannah Miller / Daily Titan)

Cal State Fullerton University Police and the Fullerton Fire Department have responded to a total of 119 alarms so far this year. While most alarms are false, they still perform procedures that include evacuating the area and alerting the nearest fire department.

“We try to respond to every single one of (the fire alarms) like they’re real,” said University Police Capt. Scot Willey. “You know you’re probably responding to the same faulty alarm … But we still have to get out there immediately.”

Willey said common causes for fire alarms are burnt popcorn, other foods or steam from the cleaning facilities.

“We know it (bothers) people that they are having to evacuate again from a certain building, but it’s important. Everything that we’re doing is training for the actual event,” Willey said.

The resources for such procedures aren’t free.

The University Police operating budget and the university pay for expenses like building marshal equipment, emergency evacuation chairs and the paramedics if needed.

Each are equally as important as the next, as they all serve their own purposes within fire alarm emergencies to potentially save a life.

When responding to an alarm, University Police conducts a visual check of the area to see if there is an internal or nonexistent fire. Then, they immediately evacuate the building. Building marshals run a visual sweep of each floor and radio their findings to police dispatch.

The campus has approximately 290 building marshals made up of employees who oversee every floor.

Emergency Management coordinator Sue Fisher created the training program for building marshals who are given a hard hat, vest, whistle and occasionally a two-way radio or megaphone.

University Police Support Services Capt. John Brockie said building marshal outfits cost $14, a total cost of $4,060 to cover all employees. Each building has a radio that costs $500 and megaphones that cost $30 each. The supplies are funded from the University Police operating budget.

After a false alarm, University Police notifies the dispatch center and people are allowed to reoccupy the building. Firefighters from Station 5, CSUF’s local fire department, respond to every alarm call, and even if the alarm is false, they reset and turn them off.

CSUF also has 28 emergency evacuation chairs, with one on the Irvine campus. These are special wheelchairs that are used to help people who have gotten injured or disabled during an emergency and need help going down the stairs or coming up from the basement.

“We just wanted to have a way for more people to be rescued because you can’t take the elevators,” said Colleen Wilkins, occupational safety officer for Environmental Health and Safety. “You have to be able to come up and down the stairs in the event of an emergency.”

Basic emergency evacuation chairs cost $1,495 each. Four of the 28 chairs on campus are used specifically for basements and cost $2,250 each.

The $46,375 total spent on these chairs is paid for by a universitywide safety fund budgeted and provided by the Division of Administration and Finance.

The fire department doesn’t charge CSUF for false alarms. If there is a medical emergency, costs are covered by the individual who requires aid. Paramedics strongly suggest that students go to the hospital if they are seriously injured but if not, students have the option to sign a release form and deny the ambulance.

Willey said people while some people might not prefer to leave in an ambulance, “most of the time, people understand why.”

To keep students protected on campus, CSUF and University Police work hard to ensure safety precautions are taken.

“There may be a day when there is an actual fire, and we need everyone to escape and get out safely,” Willey said. “We need our building marshals to guide them appropriately. We need radio traffic to be appropriate. We need our fire response.”

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