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False Fire Alarms Spark Confusion

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False Fire Alarms Spark Confusion

Photo by Ashley Veazey.

Photo by Ashley Veazey.

Photo by Ashley Veazey.

Sophie Maxwell, Staff writer

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Fire alarms are an expected part of school when they are a part of mandatory fire drills. During the 2018-2019 school year, though, the fire alarm has also gone off due to multiple false alarms. In the moments that follow, many community members may find themselves asking “what caused it?”, “how does the fire department know to come or not?” and of course, “who pays for false alarms?”.

Chamblee campus supervisor Ronald Brown explained that when a fire drill occurs, the fire alarm is not actually going off, so the fire department does not even know it is happening.

“When we do a fire drill, it’s the in-house bell system. The only time the fire department will come out is when one of the [pull] fire stations [around the building] are pulled,” said Brown. “I know recently, I believe it was November, I actually pulled a pull station, and the fire department came out. That was not a drill; that was an actual live event, so that’s the difference. The bell system [is] for the drills; pull stations [and] the fire department will come.”

Even if one of the pull stations is used, there is a certain amount of time during which it can be shut off, which notifies the fire department that it was just a false alarm.

“I think it [the time they have] is probably a minute,” said Brown. “The administrators, Mr. Spears for example, [have] a key to shut off a particular station if we can identify the station [that was pulled].”

This is not the only step they have to take. They must also manually call the fire department and let them know there was no fire, or else they will still come.

“We will shut off the station, but then we still have to call the fire station and let them know that this was a false alarm,” said Brown. “We are still required, even if it’s a false alarm or a live event, to get everyone out of the building. We have to walk through and make sure everything is a-okay and let the fire department know that, otherwise they will come out.”

Because CCHS is a public school and part of the Georgia government, the fees for the fire department coming are waived.

“I believe that since we are DeKalb County Schools, part of the State of Georgia Department of Education, […] we don’t get charged for that, but I think residential would, a normal business would,” said Brown. “Even when we have to call and bring an ambulance out for a student that’s having an anxiety attack, the ambulance comes out, but there is no charge to that student or that family unless they have [to] transport that student out.”

Just because there are no fees for false alarms does not mean there are no consequences. For example, many students don’t take the alarms seriously anymore.

“Our mentality is it’s always a drill,” said sophomore Daniella Valle-Ramos. “We’re still gonna leave [the building], but it’s always a drill.”

Even when the students know it’s not a drill, they don’t believe there is an actual fire.

“Every time [the alarm goes off] it’s an accident. Like a kid pulls it or something,” said sophomore Hannah Hancock. “It’s never real. It’s always, ‘oh, it’s just another false alarm.’”

The DeKalb Fire Department did not respond to a request for comment.

About the Writer
Sophie Maxwell, Staff writer

Sophie Maxwell is a sophomore staff writer. She likes playing softball, running the school through SGA, and participating in Model UN. This is her first year on the staff.

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