Reported fire alarms up from last year

Kelly Byer

Fire Department says burnt food is major cause for increase

There have been 85 set-off fire alarms in the dorms this semester, with more incidents involving cooking and vandalized smoke detectors than in previous semesters.

“We’re ahead of what we were last year,” Fire Safety Coordinator Ed Moisio said, adding that there were about 68 alarms at this time last year.

About 90 percent of the Kent Fire Department’s calls come from the university, chief James Williams said, with each call it responds to costing about $1,092.

With popcorn in its own category, the main cause of alarms has been hair products and equipment, causing 32. But burnt food comes in at a close second with 30 alarms. Burnt popcorn caused 18, and other miscellaneous items caused five.

Williams said leaving food unattended can cause it to burn, creating a fire.

“If you’re cooking something, then stay with it while you’re cooking it,” he said. “Don’t walk away to answer the phone or do anything else.”

Moisio said the problems with popcorn can be prevented by reading the instructions instead of using the microwave’s popcorn button because different-sized packets cook differently.

“When you don’t hear the popping anymore, you’re on your way to getting burnt (if it’s not removed),” Moisio said.

Microwave problems could also cause a fire hazard and should be dealt with, he said. A microwave that students said had been acting oddly caught fire about a month ago in Koonce Hall when the student went down the hall while food was cooking.

“That was a near-miss,” Moisio said, adding that the Kent Fire Department had to extinguish it. “If there’s something wrong with your microwave, get ahold of Residence Services so they can get you another one.”

Incidents of students tampering with smoke detectors, which each cost $125, have also increased this semester, Moisio said.

“Along with the burnt food, we get students taking down their smoke detector after it sounds,” he said.

There have been incidents where students have tried to disable the sound in detectors, and some have used them for recreation as flying discs or footballs, Moisio said.

“These are all connected electronically,” he said. “When you take one down you’re short-circuiting the system, and it could cause a power spike and cause damage to the fire system.”

Williams said disabling the detectors could be hazardous if the alarm fails and students are unaware of a fire.

“It could certainly cause somebody to be killed in the fire as a result of the vandalism to the system,” he said.

Contact safety reporter Kelly Byer at [email protected].