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HomeNewsCampusA primer on campus safety: code blues, fire alarms...and knapsack pulls

A primer on campus safety: code blues, fire alarms…and knapsack pulls

Have you ever wondered about the big red poles located around Durham College (DC)? Or why fire alarms go off in one part of the college but not another, and why they go off so frequently?

The Chronicle had the same questions so took them to Tom Lynch, the director of the Office of Campus Safety at Durham College.

Red poles and blue buttons

You may seen tall red poles in parking lots, in green spaces and at other spots on the Oshawa and Whitby campuses.

In the centre, there’s a concave space with a blue button. When pushed in an emergency, security will immediately respond to your location.

Lynch says those buttons were pushed 12 times last year, and there have been six this year so far.

“We’ve had people start walking to their cars and get nervous and push it,” he says. “And security goes out and escorts them the rest of the way.”

A new code blue button was just installed at Whitby Campus in what Lynch calls “a spectacular spot” behind the greenhouses.

“It was darkish and yucky back there and so we got facilities to pull some electrical wires for us and we put some new streetlights in and a code blue back there,” he says.

Fire alarms and smoke detectors

Along with code blue buttons, DC is also equipped with fire suppression systems, fire hoses, and sprinkler systems.

The fire alarms at DC have two levels. Stage one is the first alarm that alerts security and leads them to the affected area. When the alarm sounds gets closer together and more rapid, that’s stage two.

It’s not only fires that set off the detectors.

Bagels and knapsacks

Lynch says there are a myriad of reasons why fire alarms go off.

“If someone burns their bagel in the lunchroom, which happens, and the smoke detector grabs it, the fire department is already on route,” he adds. “They’ll go to where the bagel is. In the absence of a working fire, they will not go into a stage two.”

The requirement of stage two is to exit and move away from the building. If the ringing doesn’t stop, Lynch says, “it’s time to call it a day.”

Ontario Tech University and Durham College are set up with fire network panels. The purpose of a panel is to sense smoke, or the beginning of a fire, and activate a quick emergency response.

Ontario Tech has one panel per building, and DC has eight to ten across the entire campus. Because of the campus’ layout, some panels watch over connecting buildings.

“Obviously, you don’t want to say okay well there’s a big, massive raging fire in SSB but don’t worry about it people in CFCE, you’re fine,” Lynch says.

Water pressure or burning bagels could cause a stage one, but also casually leaning against the DC walls.

“Nine out of ten pulls we have, are knapsack pulls.” Lynch says.

In his 12 years at DC, he’s only dealt with one malicious fire alarm pull.

“It was the old, ‘I am not ready for my exam today,’” he says.

Under the Criminal Code of Canada, there is an offence called the ‘false alarm’ and it includes pulling the fire alarm with no sign of a safety concern.