This is an informational article on why you should not pull fire alarms if there is not an emergency.
The biggest reason to not pull an alarm is not because of a $500 fine or 6 months in jail, it's because setting off alarms endangers lives. The second leading cause of on-duty firefighter deaths in the US in 2009 was responding to or returning from a call. 24% of firefighter deaths were attributed to that cause in 2009.
Another thing that happens when the dispatch goes out, is that firefighters get an adrenalin rush. They are trained to treat every alarm like it's a working fire, even if they are almost completely sure it's not. Sometimes this adrenalin rush can cause heart attacks (another leading cause of firefighter death), in firefighters, and worst of all if the firefighter has a heart attack while driving it can lead to injuries and death of other firefighters and whoever they may crash into.
However, you do not only endanger the firefighter, you endanger those they serve as well. Just think about it, say the firefighters are responding to the alarm you pulled and then a real emergency happens, it will take longer to get emergency services to that scene in time, critical minutes for someone having a heart attack (most people in cardiac arrest will die if they do not have help within 4-5 minutes), or for a fire which spreads faster than ever as more and more flammable plastics get added to our houses and furniture.
The average total response time for Berkeley Fire is around 5-8 minutes, however if an engine company (pumps water) and truck company (ladder) are busy (protocol for BFD is to send one of each to all alarm calls) with a malicious alarm pull that response time could increase dramatically. Say if the response time were 10-12 minutes (completely plausible) then an entire house could be in flames and possibly setting neighboring buildings on fire.
In 2009 There were 118 malicious or prank fire alarm calls, that was up from the previous year. my hope is that if at least some people read this, maybe there will be less alarms pulled by the end of 2011 and on.
False alarms cost money: When you pull alarms to many times the Fire department can start taking legal action, this includes fines and sometimes the UC Police and Berkeley Police can put pressure on you as well.
Last, in regard to protests: Pulling many alarms on campus adds greater risk. Last time this happened, BFD Refused to respond after a while. This left campus alarm workers to go around resetting alarms. If there had been a fire in one of those buildings (especially the ones with lots of nasty chemicals) then the response time would have been unacceptably long. Not to mention the fact that you are disrupting classes and even midterms!
I hope this has been interesting and informational and remember, this information doesn't have to stay with you, pass it on, especially if you know someone who has pulled alarms in the past.