Skip to main content




Feb. 28, 2012
CONTACT: Gordon Ovenshine:
Office: 724.738.4854
Cell: 724.991.8302


University attacks false fire alarms

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. – Slippery Rock University will greatly reduce if not eliminate false fire alarms to University Police by replacing aging phone lines with fiber-optic technology, said Paul Novak, SRU director of environmental health and safety.
            The line work began Monday and will be completed April 2, starting with facilitating communication between academic buildings in the center of campus to the University Police, he said. Some newer campus buildings already use fiber optic cables and related equipment. All buildings will benefit from the fiber optics and panel work being done this spring.
            Novak said the aging phone lines, from the 1950s or 1960s, have deteriorated and were causing up to three false fire alarms a day.
            “Fire alarm systems in some of the older buildings use copper phone lines that over time are negatively affected by moisture,” he said. “There have been increasing instances where fire panels would go into alarms without provocation such as smoke or fire. Systems would go into alarm mode in some instances continually.”
            Every time a fire alarm goes off, University Police are obligated to investigate.      “Collectively, these false fire alarms – in some buildings two or three times a day – were placing a burden on campus safety personnel as they need to respond to all such alarms,” he said.
            The work will cost around $20,000, Novak said.
            As new buildings have been constructed or renovated, fiber-optic cable is part of the fire alarm system specifications, Novak said.
            Fiber optic cables carry communication signals using pulses of light. They are increasingly being used instead of copper cables because they are less susceptible to electrical interference, Novak said.
            SRU complies with mandatory requirements to continuously monitor fire detection and suppression systems in buildings. There are 50 fire alarm systems on campus that connect to more than 4,000 devices, including smoke alarms, heat detectors and pull stations, Novak said.
            SRU also has more than 1,400 fire extinguishers on campus and 20 sprinkler systems with more than 2,000 discharge heads to help quell a fire until emergency personnel arrive.
            Collectively, these life safety systems monitor nearly 7,000 detection points on campus. “This number stands to increase with the opening of the new Robert M. Smith Student Center,” Novak said.
            All systems report to University Police 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
            The University has taken a number of other steps to boost safety and emergency response in recent years. More than 160 “Call for Help” boxes were installed in 15 academic buildings through the Metis Secure Solutions system.
            In an emergency, a user pushes the callbox to automatically send a request for help to University Police. The user leaves up to a 10-second message for police, who can instantly isolate the location of the request for help and send an officer to an exact location and communicate with someone as needed.
SRU also offers emergency alerts to your cell phone or e-mail. To sign up, go to