Any building worth the man hours to construct has alarms that are only activated manually, but no alarm is more susceptible to human error or foolishness than the manual fire alarm.
A few weeks ago, Ellington Hall’s fire alarm was tripped by someone who thought it was a good idea for a joke. However, he or she is wrong. Fire alarms were made to alert every person within a building to a threat to their lives, not a joke made to get everyone running out of a building at three in the morning.
From a purely logistical standpoint, running a fire engine is not cheap. According to a calculation made by the Springfield News Leader, based on an average time of 17 to 18 minutes per incident, the average cost for a fire engine to respond to the average call is more than $1,308. This covers fire engine and station upkeep and the cost of consumables such as fuel and firefighter salaries.
Yet this figure also does not include any medical response. All Emergency Medical Technicians that are part of a hospital or fire response team are working a job and need to be compensated for this. In Tennessee, the average salary for an EMT or paramedic is about $15 per hour. Most paramedics operate in three-man teams, one to drive and two to attend to a patient in the ambulance. Including the cost of fuel for the ambulance and expendables, a single emergency response call and trip to the ER can range from $400 to $1,200 plus mileage.
UTM’s Office of Public Safety has at least two police officers respond to each fire alarm. One secures the perimeter while the other ensures everyone is evacuated. Even after the initial response of fire personnel, police have to stay longer, taking statements, investigate the reason behind the fire, and ensure there are no further issues.
Additionally, pulling a fire alarm when a fire is not present is considered false reporting under Tennessee law, which could result in felony charges.
Coupling all of this with the fact that pulling a fire alarm as part of a prank, or for any other reason, is dangerous and can instill unnecessary fear, it is not worth doing.