As most of us know, a ringing fire alarm due to burnt popcorn is not an uncommon occurrence in the residence halls, whether during the day, completely out of the blue or springing you out of bed at 5 a.m.
But how many alarms do Orville Redenbacher and his delicious buttery popcorn actually cause?
According to reports from the Oxford Fire Department, there were 129 false alarms on Miami’s campus in 2011, totaling nearly 72 percent of total incidents. Of those, only about 2 percent of incidents are attributed to malicious or mischievous false calls.
Emerson Hall Resident Assistant (RA) Bailey Box said almost all of the alarms she’s dealt with have been due to burnt popcorn.
“Every fire alarm instance I have experienced as an RA had always been for students who are incapable of making popcorn in their microwave,” Box said. “Or in the case of this year, a toaster strudel.”
However, Box pointed out that sometimes students purposely set off the alarms, even though they aren’t always caught.
However, pulling a fire alarm when there is not an emergency has consequences. The Miami University Office of Ethics and Student Conflict Resolution (OESCR) takes the matter seriously – police are called and the incident is considered a crime.
According to Chris Taylor, associate director of ethics and student conflict resolution in OESCR, “As far as pulling a fire alarm, [the punishment] could be anything from probation and community service on the low end to possibly suspension on the high end.”
Lucy Dilworth, a sophomore resident of Richard Hall, said she does not think anyone would purposely pull a fire alarm.
“They’re super irritating and loud,” she said. “Everyone hates doing them.”
Everyone, however, does not account for intoxicated students, Taylor said.
“Most people won’t do it just for the prank, so it’s a reasonably safe bet that there is some level of intoxication involved,” Taylor said.
Intoxication is especially suspect in alarms that go off at 4 a.m. as Box experienced. Although the student was never identified because of the time of night and the repeat occurrence 45 minutes later, she said it was pretty unlikely the student was sober.
Even though these incidents occur, they are often few and far between and rarely end in the individual being caught, according to Taylor.
Taylor said in a given year OESCR does not see any cases involving a student pulling a fire alarm, including this year where no intentionally pulled fire alarms have been reported. More often the office hears about students covering smoke detectors in their room.
There was no returned response from the MUPD about this issue.