Only you can prevent fire alarms

So by this point in the year, it has probably happened to you at least once, somewhere on campus: Your daily routine is suddenly jolted by a blaring horn that at first makes you think you are aboard a submarine under attack, until you realize it is a fire alarm going off. Fire safety is one of those topics that seem unimportant until something happens—then it’s really important. Therp are hundreds of fire alarm systems on campus, and they are there to ensure your safety, however inconvenient they may be at times. Below are some tips.

Almost all on-campus buildings have a fire alarm system. If one should go off, university policy is that you must evacuate the building. Note the word must: Evacuation of a building during a fire alarm is not up for discussion. Proceed calmly and swiftly out of the building, avoiding elevators, and wait for the all-clear signal. University policy requires the notification of the appropriate fire department when an alarm goes off, so the shiny red trucks will be coming. Tampering with fire alarms anywhere on campus is a criminal offense.

False alarms
Fortunately, most of our alarms fall into this category. The primary culprit in most false alarms, especially in residence halls, is (bad) cooking. If you are using a stove or a microwave, keep your eye on your food until you’re done. Remember simple rules such as macaroni requires water and that microwaving things for 10 minutes does not make them taste twice as good as if their instructions say to microwave for five minutes. Staff can be as guilty of this as students. Excessive steam can be another culprit.

Open flames anywhere outside of labs are a bad idea, and items like candles are prohibited in residence halls. And if you should happen to host a late night party, on- or off-campus, ensure that when the night is through, someone does a smoldering cigarette sweep before everyone goes to bed. This was the scenario that cost a John Carroll student his life the week before graduation in 2001. So keep an eye on the macaroni/coffee pot/space heater and remember the bear’s advice applies to campus just as well as the wilderness—only you can prevent fire (alarms).

On the Beat is a weekly safety column written by Sergeant Jeffrey Daberko & Officer Mark (The Crossing Guard) Chavis of CWRU PD. Send feedback to this or other columns at