Paul Smith’s College bolsters fire safety efforts

PAUL SMITHS – Paul Smith’s College will hire a trained safety officer and staff a 24-hour dispatch center on campus, bolstering the institution’s ability to respond to emergencies.

The additions are slated to take place before students arrive for the new academic year Aug. 25 and will allow the college to provide the first response to most fire alarms on campus. The plan will resolve litigation between the college and the town of Brighton regarding the Prevention of Avoidable Alarms law.

Enacted by the town in 2009, the law imposed fines of $250 for every false alarm the department responds to. The first three false alarms only garner warnings, and the fine increases to $500 for each offense after the 25th.

To avoid false-alarm fines, the college’s new position and dispatch center will enable campus safety officials to respond to all single-alarm calls.

Local fire officials will continue to be notified of fire alarms triggered outside residence hall rooms and will still have the option of responding. If multiple alarms are triggered simultaneously in the same building, the department will respond automatically.

“Now we can respond to an alarm first and determine if it merits involving the fire department,” said Kenneth Aaron, spokesperson for Paul Smith’s College. “We’ve recognized that it’s a hardship for volunteers to get up in the middle of the night for burnt popcorn.”

Currently, a dispatcher is on duty during the college’s business hours; calls go directly to campus safety officers during overnight hours.

The college’s new fire-safety officer will be responsible for conducting fire-safety training for the campus community and designing programs aimed at reducing unnecessary alarms. The programs are not entirely new. The college has made an effort to reduce false alarms in recent years, and according to Aaron, they’ve worked. In a press release, he said the fire department responded to the campus an average of 2.3 times a month between June 2012 and May 2013, compared to 5.7 times a month between June 2009 and May 2010.

“We were responding to the campus two to five times some weeks,” said Roger Smith, chief of the Paul Smiths-Gabriels Volunteer Fire Department. “They started these programs, and they also put in a better alarm system in some of the dorms, and that’s all really helped in decreasing the number of alarms we get activated for.”