Faulty fire alarm fines aimed at students

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Western students are flaming mad over faulty fire alarm fines.

The London Fire Department has decided to re-focus fines onto students rather than landlords in regards to faulty smoke alarms.

A few months ago, the fire department responded to a call in a 10-unit building. “Not one of the units had working alarms,” remembered Rick Jefferson, public information coordinator for the London Fire Department.

Jefferson said tenants must notify their landlords if their fire detectors malfunction, rather than expect landlords to know the status of all fire alarms in every unit.

Nadan Omercajic, a first-year social science student at King’s University College, doesn’t think students should have to pay the fines. “I think it’s the landlords responsibility,” he said.

Omercajic is also frustrated with oversensitive alarms. “Sometimes students want to smoke up and they should make smoke detectors that aren’t sensitive to pot smoke.”

Whether cooking or smoking up, students often take the batteries out of the alarm, or rip the detectors off the wall when they go off accidentally.

The fine for failure to install, maintain or provide maintenance instructions and intentionally disabling a smoke alarm is $195. With additional fees, each offence adds up to $235.

Jefferson recounted one incident where a resident had destroyed the alarm with a hockey stick.

“We’re finding in multi-resident units that tenants are removing smoke alarms and sometimes smashing them,” he said.

Justin Berkovits, a third-year media, information and technoculture student, said his smoke alarm often goes off when he’s cooking in the kitchen. “It gets annoying ... it never shuts up.”

That’s why the fire department suggests a new type of alarm that has a “hush button.” If you’re making toast or cooking, pushing the button will deactivate the alarm for fifteen minutes.

In a press release last Thursday, Deputy Fire Chief Dan Oldridge emphasized the importance of having a working fire alarm.

“Provincial statistics clearly show that having a working smoke alarm to protect you dramatically increases the possibility that you will survive.”

Smoke detector Fines
• Failure to install smoke alarms $195
• Failure to maintain smoke alarms in operating condition $195
• Failure to provide smoke alarm maintenance instructions to occupant $195
• Intentionally disabling smoke alarm to make it inoperable $195
• Replacing smoke alarm with reduced level of detection $195

On top of these fees, there is a “victim surcharge” of $35 and a court fee of $5 for each violation.

In total, each offence can amount to $235.

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