Every student has a least favorite class. Even if you’re the “model student,” you’ve probably experienced a time when you wanted nothing more than to get out of a test or assignment. For most students, this is a problem without a solution. However, some Berkeley High School (BHS) students seemingly believe that illegally pulling the fire alarms is the key to getting out of class. BHS needs to be doing more to prevent false fire alarms, as they are a danger to the safety of BHS students and the City of Berkeley as a whole.
Pulling a fire alarm decreases class time. While it’s fun to be dismissed early, the constant alarms create a dangerously relaxed attitude towards evacuation, one that could result in injuries during a real fire.
When the fire alarm is pulled during the last period of the day, BHS administrators often allow early dismissals for all students. This seems reasonable to allow once or twice, but a consequence is that it encourages more students to pull the fire alarm at the end of the day.
Another reason why BHS has these recurring fire alarms is the faultiness of the camera system. According to Computers and Engineering teacher Matt Albinson, “[The camera system] takes a picture every few seconds.”
While taking a picture may seem useful, alarms are usually placed near exits, meaning it would be easy for students to pull the alarm and then run off camera without being captured in a photograph. By increasing security to a full video surveillance system, BHS would have an easier time identifying the culprits.
Fire alarms at BHS not only put a strain on the student body, but on the Berkeley community as well. According to Berkeley Fire Marshall Steven Riggs, when a fire alarm is pulled, the City of Berkeley dispatches two fire engines from Fire Station 2. This is two-thirds of all the trucks in the station, which is also one of Berkeley’s busiest stations.
“When they’re out investigating the fire alarms or en route, they’re not available to respond to other calls,” Riggs said. “One of the bigger impacts can be we have someone in the general area that has a medical emergency … something that requires immediate intervention by our paramedics. If the closest units are at [BHS] investigating a false alarm, then the next fire units available would have to respond, and generally, that would be a longer trip.” This occurrence has actually happened in the past, and may have very negative consequences for patients in critical condition.
Overall, BHS needs to do more to prevent the false alarms, as they cause a major disruption to students and put the City of Berkeley at risk. While there is no way to completely remove the possibility, an investment into the camera system, or just more staff physically patrolling the halls would do a lot to deter students from pulling the alarm in the future.
Additionally, students who are thinking of pulling an alarm should consider the impacts on BHS and the City of Berkeley as a whole. As said by Riggs, “Think about the outlet that you’re using for frustrations or boredom. Please don’t set off the fire alarm needlessly; it can have terrible consequences for people that you don’t know, that really need medical or fire services.”