False fire alarms and bomb threats are no joking matter

With the approach of the exam period, the threat of disruptions caused by false fire alarms and bomb threats increases. Although incidents at York University have declined since 2005, they can still cause significant problems for students, faculty and staff.

"When this happens, the actions of a select few individuals negatively affect everyone,” says Joanne Duklas, University registrar. “Concerns have been raised at all levels including at York Senate. In response, the Registrar’s Office has been working closely with the Senate’s Committee on Curriculum and Academic Standards, the Faculties and Security Services to find methods to respond to and prevent these disruptions."

Anyone who knowingly communicates a false report of a bomb threat in order to alarm members of the community or who commits a malicious activation of a fire alarm can be held criminally accountable, says Dragan Spasojevic, manager of security operations. These offences are also a breach of the Student Code of Conduct, which specifically mentions these disruptive acts. Those responsible could be held liable for costs incurred by the University.

“Students with disabilities can be affected more so than others,” says Duklas. “Scheduling the necessary accommodations and services for students with special needs can be a complicated matter and having to change them for this kind of disruption is especially difficult and unfair.”

In 2005 the University paid $162,189.62 to the Toronto Fire Services for responding to false fire alarms. These false alarms disrupt the whole community and the operation of the University, says Spasojevic.

“In responding to false fire alarms and bomb threats, emergency services such as the Toronto Fire Services and Toronto Police Service are tying up valuable resources which could be used to respond to real emergencies, thus placing other members of the wider community at risk,” says Spasojevic.

In some instances, people act out of desperation to disrupt an examination, says Duklas. Students should be aware that York does allow, under specific conditions, for deferred standing of final exams and assignments. More information on deferred standing is available on the University Registrar Web site’s FAQ page.

Security Services, the Office of the Registrar and instructors who are presiding invigilators are responsible for the orderly evacuation of students during emergency situations. If an examination is disrupted, even for a few moments, it causes stress and inconvenience to everyone and accomplishes little. In cases where an exam room must be abandoned, students could be required to write a new exam on another day.

If anyone has information regarding a disruption during an exam, they can report it confidentially to York Security Services at ext. 33333.