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Fire alarm 101: Here’s the back story

Fire alarms are common at ORU. A student’s first instinct is to stay in the dorms, but there are serious protocols to follow in order to ensure the safety of all.

“Anytime the alarm goes off, exit the building by the nearest exit that leads outside,” said Tim Cooper, Oral Roberts University’s fire marshall. “Once you get outside you should get about 100 feet away from the building.”

All the fire alarms are tied back to programs in the security office. Each residence hall has its own fire panel that reports back to a central receiver in security, which alerts dispatch. The panels do not always give an exact location. EMR and Claudius each have panels that give the floor and wing. Towers have panels that give the building and floor. Gabrielle has panels that give the exact room number.

According to Cooper, when dispatch is alerted, the security officers check out what is wrong. They go to the fire panel first to see where the alarm was set off. One officer reports to the floor to investigate. As soon as they find out what is going on they report to dispatch.

“At the first of the year we always get some nuisance alarms,” said Cooper. “It’s people messing with people and messing with the fire alarm system.”

Messing with the fire alarm system is a felony, which can be prosecuted if someone is injured during the process of evacuation.

“The majority of what we receive are mischievous alarms,” said Cooper. “Following that you’ll have popcorn in a microwave that’s been [cooked] a little too long or somebody baking something in one of the few kitchens.”

Gabrielle and Claudius are prone to setting off the alarms by hairspray and straightening irons. The placement of the sensors makes them more susceptible to pick up small smoke particles from hair products. Typically EMR has the most fire alarms set off.

“They have had a few this year, and most of them have been a mischief-type incident,” said Cooper.

ORU has not had a fire in a dorm room in over two years. The last incident happened when a student in EMR had left a towel hanging over a light fixture and the towel ignited.

“They had to call the fire department here, because they had actual smoke in the building,” said Cooper.

Cooking fires are the number-one cause of residential fires nationwide. According to Cooper, because of cooking fires, the kitchens within the dorms were reduced, but students still manage to set off the fire alarms by cooking in their microwaves.

“It’s common. It’s expected,” said Cooper. “That’s why as soon as an alarm hits everybody drops everything and starts heading toward the alarm.”

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