Local News

St. Augustine's Students Fined for False Fire Alarms

Posted May 9, 2007 8:48 p.m. EDT
Updated May 14, 2007 1:04 p.m. EDT

— St. Augustine's College has started fining every student in dorms where false fire alarms occur in an effort to cut out the act, which fire officials say can have deadly consequences.

Since Jan. 1, the Raleigh Fire Department has responded to 27 false alarms on campus. Two dozen occurred at one dorm, Weston Hall, at all hours of the day with the most recent being Tuesday.

"We want to hit students where they hurt," said Cynthia Beamon, vice president of student affairs at St. Augustine's.

She said all students in the affected dorm must pay $25 each time an alarm is pulled and there is not a fire. Since the policy has been in place, the college has imposed the fine five times at Weston Hall – a total of $125 per student. There are about 300 students in the dorm.

Beamon couldn’t say whether the policy has been in place long enough to be effective.

"We are getting their attention; we want to get their attention," Beamon said. "We want them to know how important it is that they participate in assisting us in solving this problem."

The school is also looking at other options such as increasing security and possibly adding surveillance cameras.

Also at issue is the city's involvement and the impact the false alarms is having on the city and its fire resources.

Raleigh Assistant Fire Chief Larry Stanford said it is typical for three fire engines, a truck company and a battalion chief to respond to each alarm. The false calls, he said, take away valuable resources.

"It seems like a harmless prank," Stanford said. "But it's not. People will get complacent when they have so many."

The fire department has held fire-safety forums for students, warned them that pulling fire alarms is a crime and is offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to the person or people responsible for pulling the alarms.

And although the city can fine the school up to $500 per false alarm under a 2004 ordinance, Stanford said they are not doing this, right now, because the department is trying to work with the college to solve the problem.

But in reports, as late as last month, fire captains told security officers at the scene that the false alarms were becoming a serious problem at the school and that "there needed to be more effort on their part to thwart the problem."

"I think that more aggressive action by the school and Raleigh Fire Department Fire Prevention is needed," a fire official stated in another report.

Officials in city government could not say exactly how the many false alarms at St. Augustine's have an impact on the city, because they did not know about them until they were asked by WRAL.