Guynn said false alarms are inevitable, but they are not an indication that the building is unsafe.
“We have fire alarms systems on campus that are very new and we have fire alarm systems that are older,” he said. “We never wait until the whole thing just falls apart and doesn’t work before we replace it.”
He said it takes longer to replace fire alarms in the older buildings on campus that have not been renovated.
“A good example is Davis,” he said. “Davis is a problem because it’s old. Davis doesn’t have some of those new features. So the only time we have to go back and put in new fire alarm systems is when a building hasn’t been renovated. And Hamilton is a good example of that and Davis is a good example of that.”
Chapel Hill Deputy Fire Chief, Matt Lawrence, said the dispatched team try to find the cause of the alarm when they respond to calls.
“When our units are dispatched to automatic fire alarms or any type of alarm call, as part of this program, what our folks do is investigate, of course, what the reason for the call is,” he said.
Lawrence said the fire department keeps track of false alarms and compiles them in a database used by an accidental alarm program.
“That goes into our false alarm, our accidental alarm program, which is an effort from the town standpoint to try to get a grasp on our response to unnecessary alarms,” he said. “Our goals of course are to reduce our operating costs, but more importantly to make sure we keep fire units and services for true emergencies.”
The program, which the fire department implemented two years ago, is to cut down operating costs and reduce the number of false alarms — especially those at the University.
“The University makes up about half of the alarm calls that we run, but a lot of them are there on campus,” he said. “We have worked very closely with the University since the start of this program to try to help manage the impact on the University but also to help them manage their systems better so we don’t have to respond to those unnecessary alarms.”
Lawrence said the program has been a success so far and the fire department has only responded to five false alarms at Davis Library in the last two years.
“The program is generally working with a downward trend in alarms,” he said. “We really don’t have (an issue) at Davis to be honest.”
Spokesperson for Facilities Services and Real Estate, Stephanie Berrier, said she doesn't expect the false alarm to happen again.
“On Oct. 3, the Chapel Hill Fire Department responded to a fire alarm in Davis Library,” she said in an email. “They determined that there was no fire but were unable to reset the fire panel, so Life Safety Services was called in for assistance. We speculate that contractors working in the library accidentally tripped a fire pump mechanism, which in turn caused the alarms to sound.”
She said there is no malfunctioning equipment in Davis Library.