False fire alarms reduced, still burdensome

Non-emergency fire alarms at campus housing facilities continue to be a nuisance for the fire department and university staff.

For every fire alarm that is triggered at the campus dormitories, the housing staff react, the fire department responds and the student residents look on.

Twelve fire alarm reports have been filed thus far, David Stephen, director of university housing and food services, wrote in an email to the Orion.

Two of these were pranks, Stephen said. One student has been removed from university housing, and the second case is still pending deliberation. The remaining 10 alarms have been associated with cooking. No actual fires have been reported so far this semester.

The fire alarms that are triggered at the student residences are generally associated with cooking.

“We have new students with relatively little cooking experience, it’s amazing how many of these situations would be remedied if students simply read food preparation labels,” Stephen wrote.

Following the installation of the new fire and life safety system last year, the number of false alarms decreased. But those that do occur continue to create problems for Chico State and the fire department.

University Police Department acts as a buffer between these alarms and firefighters and determines whether a response is necessary. Regardless of whether they need to show up, firefighters prepare for every alarm, which can exact a toll on emergency personnel.

The false alarms have negative effects on firefighters, said Chico fire marshal Martin Myers. Initially, they could be out of position and delayed for more pressing calls.

The alarms also take a mental and physical toll on the firefighters.

Being alert for every alarm puts a strain on the responders, and can eventually create a sense of complacency, Myers said. This is also true for the students who live in the area, because they are conditioned to the alarms and won’t respond as if it’s a real emergency.

Along with the emotional factors of the alarms, the city of Chico spends additional money on each response. The city of Chico also pays for the fuel used by fire engines, which averages about $50 per response.


Nathan Lehmann can be reached at [email protected] or @theorion_news on Twitter.