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Update: Homecoming fire alarm pulls at Queen’s cost KFR over $9,700

Students gather on the sidewalk after evacuating Queen’s University’s Watts Hall student residence building on the night of Saturday, Oct. 17, 2020 as the result of a fire alarm was pulled in the building maliciously. Photo by Logan Cadue.

Update (Monday, Nov. 2, 2020):
Upon further review of the Kingston Fire and Rescue (KFR) activity log and dispatch information for the night that took place from Friday, Oct. 16 to Saturday, Oct. 17, 2020, as well as our own further investigation, Kingstonist has been able to clarify some details.

The seven fire alarm calls from Queen’s University residence buildings that took place over that period of time were all attended by at least three fire trucks. One call involved five KFR vehicles.

With the cost of one truck sent out to a call for the first hour being $422.30 (see below), this means that the false fire alarm calls at Queen’s University residence buildings over Homecoming weekend cost KFR at least $9,712.90.

Original article:

While many in Kingston were pleased to see a relatively calm Homecoming weekend for Queen’s University students this year, the revelry that did occur came at a cost for Kingston Fire and Rescue (KFR).

The City of Kingston, Kingston Police, KFL&A Public Health, and Queen’s University itself all campaigned heavily leading up to Homecoming weekend, advising students of the dangers of large gatherings during the COVID-19 pandemic – and the fines and disciplinary action that would be associated with such high-risk behaviour. Over the course of Homecoming weekend, which took place Friday, Oct. 16 to Sunday, Oct. 18, 2020, a number of gatherings did take place, but those were handled and quashed by Kingston Police, City Bylaw Enforcement, and Queen’s Security. The number of these gatherings paled in comparison to those which usually take place at the annual event, and Kingston Police announced on Monday, Oct. 19 that they were pleased with the decreased number of infractions over Homecoming 2020.

However, a series of seven fire alarms at Queen’s University residence buildings didn’t help in keeping the weekend quiet and safe. The first fire alarm went off at approximately 11 p.m., and the last at 3:45 a.m. the following day. Following the events, KFR said they were “in contact with the University” and had “offered supports to mitigate future alarm activations.” In response, Queen’s indicated they were investigating the malicious fire alarm pulls (fire alarm activations when there is no actual fire or emergency).

“Tampering with fire equipment or pulling an alarm as a prank are considered Level 3 offences (the highest level) within the residence conduct system, and as such can also be investigated as violations of the University’s Student Code of Conduct,” Kate Murray, Director of Residence Life for Queen’s University, said at the time.

Kingstonist followed up with KFR to find out why false alarm activations are dangerous, as well as the costs associated with these calls.

“When Kingston Fire & Rescue (KFR) receives a call, firefighters assume they are responding to an emergency situation. To think otherwise would be a risk to our community. For incidents of this nature, up to three trucks will respond,” said Julielee Sitt, Communications Officer for the City of Kingston and KFR.

According to KFR, the cost of one truck being sent to a call is approximately $422.30 for the first hour, as outlined in the City’s Fees and Charges By-law.

At that rate of cost per truck, the seven calls to the Queen’s residence buildings cost KFR (and therefore City of Kingston taxpayers) no less than $2,956.10, assuming only one truck was sent to each call and remained on scene for no more than an hour.

However, the standard fire alarm call sees three trucks dispatched by KFR. Kingstonist reporters on scene the night of the alarms at residence buildings confirmed that the standard three trucks were sent to each call that night (though some were advised to stand down after the initial call).

That means that the seven calls on Homecoming weekend cost KFR at least $5,912.20 (for two trucks per call for no more than an hour), or $8,868.30 (for three trucks per call for no more than an hour) at the most.

Kingston Fire and Rescue and Campus Security on scene at Smith House for a fire alarm call on Thursday, Oct. 15, 2020, the day before Homecoming weekend commenced. Photo by Logan Cadue.

But it’s not just the financial costs that worry KFR when it comes to false fire alarm calls.

“Education can play an important role in reducing the number of malicious calls the department receives. KFR works directly with schools, landlords, businesses, and media outlets… to ensure residents are aware of the consequences of activating an alarm,” Stitt explained.

“For instance, malicious alarms could delay trucks that are needed at legitimate emergencies, and if someone is criminally charged it could impact their future employment, etc.”

Stitt advised that anyone wanting to learn more about this and other fire prevention matters can email [email protected] for resources or to speak with an inspector.

As for the findings of the investigation Queen’s indicated was taking place, Queen’s University refused to divulge any of their findings or subsequent disciplinary actions that may have taken place.

“Queen’s University has no further comment,” the University said in response to questions regarding the findings of the investigation and any disciplinary actions as a result.

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