False fire alarms have been pulled 10 times in four different Saddleback campus buildings in November – seven of which happened in a one-week period.
Saddleback Police Chief Christopher Wilkinson reports that the alarms are being pulled in mostly the “same buildings, on the same days, around the same time periods,” he said.
“In my humble opinion,” Wilkinson said, “based on my training and background, this person may have a history of doing this. For all we know he or she could be standing in the crowd.”
Each time the fire alarm is activated, Orange County Fire Department Station 9 must respond. There is a result cost to the city and each alarm presents a certain level of additional danger. Fire personnel might be responding to a false fire pull when a real fire happens and that increases the chance of real people getting hurt.
According to the Berkeley Daily Planet, firefighters are trained to respond to every call like it’s a working fire. As a consequence, that adrenalin rush can cause physical consequences to the men whose job it is to save our lives. There is also the effect of people who panic during a fire pull and causing harm to others as well as not responding to alarms because they think it is just another false pull.
In January 2000, a fire in a New Jersey dormitory at Seton Hall University killed three students and injured 62 others. It was determined that an open flame caused this fire from a lighter or match that burned flammable material on a couch in the lounge. Students were left groping in smoke attempting to escape.
Ironically, many of the 640 residents heard a fire alarm earlier that morning and because it was false, most decided not to pay attention to the real alarm.
Saddleback faculty is trained for fire evacuations and it is recommended that you follow their lead in the event of a fire pull. If you want more information about evacuations to protect your own safety, go to the campus police website at www.saddleback.edu/police and look under emergency information near the bottom of the page.
Kevin O’Connor, Dean of Liberal Arts has experienced a number of these false fire pulls. He was impressed that the “evacuations were very effective.” He also said that it is “very disappointing that someone would do this.” The concern is the endangerment of other people’s lives and the constant disruption of critical classes.
Police want students to understand that this is a felony crime with punishment beyond academic disciplinary action. California Penal Code section 148.4 states that a person convicted of pulling false alarms can be imprisoned in a county jail and fined up to $10,000.
Chief Wilkinson asks that students remain vigilant in watching for this perpetrator. He requests that students “report anything suspicious in the hallways; especially by the fire pull stations and exists.”
If you see someone acting suspicious, or if an alarm is pulled and you witness someone running away especially out of an exit, you are asked to immediately call 582-4585.
Get a good description of the person and if possible, use a mobile device to take a photo. If you wish to remain anonymous use this Silent Witness Form www.saddleback.edu/ppolice/sw-form.html