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False fire alarms are dangerous

Firefighters put their lives at risk on a daily basis, whether it is racing to put out a fire or rescuing people from dangerous situations.

But here in Lethbridge there is another kind of risk facing firefighters. False fire alarms, while not the deadly threat everyone expects them to be, have a hidden danger to them that not many are aware of.

Mark Hoveling of the Lethbridge Fire department says that around 30 per cent of firefighters die in car accidents on the way to or coming back from a call.

“There is a danger factor. The leading cause of death for firefighters doesn’t occur until they get back from a call. Heart attacks kill more firefighters than anything. Their adrenaline gets pumping and it takes them a while to calm down completely.”

Many residents at Lethbridge College know firsthand about how often the fire alarms go off and for what reasons.

Someone forgot to shut the bathroom door after a shower and the alarm picked up the steam, or forgot a pizza in the oven and filled the house with smoke. Now while these all seem fairly silly, they are putting the people in charge of saving lives in danger.

When the alarms go off the fire department is notified immediately, so they come racing through traffic and traffic lights to get here to potentially have to remove some college students from a dangerous situation, only to find out that, yes, someone did forget to shut the bathroom door, or yes, someone did forget their pizza in the oven.

But this doesn’t happen just at Lethbridge College. This is a problem happening all over the city.

And as a result, the city is no longer paying the bill for the fire department to rush out to the scene anymore. Hoveling, who is in charge of public education at the Lethbridge Fire Department, says on top of the city dumping the burden onto residents, a new fine will be activated on top of it.

“In 2010 city council passed a bylaw stating that, if there are repeated false alarms, there would be a fee.”

Although there is no charge for the first false alarm, the charges start at $75 and go all the way to $625 where it will stay at until the previous year has passed, and everyone is set back to zero.

Here at the college, it seems the students won’t be coughing up the dough to pay for these fees. However, Kim Sullivan, manager of ancillary learning at Lethbridge college, says educating the students at the college is the best way to avoid issues,

“A big part of it can be some more time spent on education. How do we get folks out to these information sessions? Things are going to happen. For many it’s their first time away from home. It’s awareness.”

While Sullivan agrees the alarms aren’t able to tell the difference between steam from a shower or smoke from a fire, he believes a simple change is location of the alarms may help better the situation.

Sullivan says in the past they have seen fires get out of control from students lighting the bugs in their residences on fire with lighters.

Sullivan says many times it comes from silliness, but he wants everyone to remember the fire alarms on campus are there for a reason.

“It is an inconvenience, and one of the things we don’t want to get into is, ‘Oh, it’s just an alarm, it doesn’t matter.’ I think fire is one of the leading causes of death on North American campuses.”

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