By Justin Gibson
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn (UTC/The Loop) —
Apartment buildings on UTC’s South Campus with activated fire alarms have cost the local taxpayers $31,500-$42,000 since Jan. 10.
“Every time the (fire) department rolls out, it costs about $1,500-$2,000 for taxpayers.” Shellie Thorne, Assistant Fire Marshal of Hamilton County, said. “Only if the call is considered malicious then that person would be charged with the fine.”
South Campus residents, who are divided up into five different buildings, have seen the fire department report to the campus 21 different times this semester according to Bruce Garner, Public Information Director for Chattanooga Fire Department.
Lisa Gladden, the safety inspector supervisor at UTC, says that most of these calls are when students are not paying attention to their cooking or are smoking in the building. The smoke gets into the detectors and sets off the local alarm.
“The fire department must report to every call, and always expect to fight a fire.” Thorne said.
“Any time the fire department is called out it puts the firefighters and the community in danger,” Gladden said, “Basically people need to be educated as to what they are doing.”
This is exactly what the fire safety meeting on campus is designed to do. Gladden and Thorne have this meeting in order to inform students of the potential dangers of their carelessness and the endangerment of the firefighters and others.
“The individual is held liable,” Thorne said, “If an alarm were set off and someone got hurt, not only would that person be responsible for the fine, and the reckless endangerment charge but any felony charges and the criminal record as well.”
Gladden said that she would like to see the fire and safety program worked into the freshman orientation in some way but is hesitant to try and make it mandatory.
Gladden and Thorne already have door prizes at the meeting that range anywhere from I-pods, to televisions, to DVDs for any student who shows up.
Gladden said that she is open to ideas for incentives for the students and she hopes that meeting attendance will increase in the future.