For many Ohio University students who live on campus, fire alarms are a regular occurrence. 

Various acts can set off an alarm — cooking, aerosol spray, burnt popcorn or vaping. 

During the 2016-17 academic year, the Athens Fire Department responded to 165 fire alarms in residence halls. Gamertsfelder Hall had the most, with 30 alarms. Pickering Hall has had the most alarms so far in 2017-18, with a total of 32 as of Nov. 29. The average response time for the fire crew was 5 minutes. 

Steam from showers or burnt food often trigger fire alarms, but the cause for the vast majority of fire alarms is unknown. Out of 165 alarms, 44 were of unknown cause.

Twenty fire alarms went off during the 2016-17 academic year due to burnt popcorn. Eleven more were due to aerosal spray. Two were system malfunctions. One was due to a Keurig coffee maker, one was due to a burnt Twinkie in a microwave and one cause was listed as "film crew."

One increasing cause of fire alarms is use of vape pens. There were five reports of vape pens or e-cigarettes triggering fire alarms in the 2016-17 academic year, but there have been 21 as of Nov. 29 for the 2017-18 academic year.

Athens Fire Department Captain George Klinger said in an email that the fire department considers vape pens and e-cigarettes to be different. He said OU does alarm testing, but the fire department is not involved with testing or maintenance of the fire alarm systems. 

The Student Housing Handbook states “Smoking and vaping of any kind, including e-cigarettes, is prohibited in residence halls, in entry ways, on South Green Catwalks, or within 25 feet of residence facilities.”  

OU Spokesman Dan Pittman said OU takes many fire safety measures. Housing and Residence Life, Facilities Management and Safety, Environmental Health and Safety, and Campus Safety work with the City of Athens Fire Department to promote fire safety within residence halls. 

“All University residence hall and building fire drill/alarm testing is scheduled and executed in accordance with Ohio Revised Code,” Pittman said in an email. “Fire alarms in the residence halls are tested annually by the Life Safety Shop. Each device is tested to ensure proper operation, and any fire alarm that does not pass inspection during these tests is immediately repaired or replaced and re-tested until it passes with 100 percent accuracy.”

Kelly Stincer, a spokeswoman for the Ohio State Fire Marshal's Office, said the fire code requires businesses to use a licensed company to test fire alarms annually.


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