Students at several Oxford colleges have been left fuming at the state of fire alarms.

Malfunctioning fire alarms in Oriel, Balliol and Worcester have been going off at all times of day and night and students are angry that college authorities seem slow to act. The situation has led to students ignoring the alarms because they are set off so often.

It is thought that the fire alarm in Worcester’s Mitchell building is being set off by spiders living in the loft. Students claim they have to regularly go up to wipe the cobwebs away. The alarm is not always loud enough to wake students up, posing a serious threat to safety. Additionally, the porters of the building have no way of knowing when the alarm has sounded. Students have to visit the lodge in person to report the alarm, raising questions about whether the fire service would be called in time in the event of a real emergency.

Tom Hosking, who lives in the Mitchell Building commented, “It’s getting ridiculous. We have to go and fetch a porter each time it goes off, which has been quite a few nights in the past week. One guy didn’t even wake up last time and he was more sober than a judge at the time. It’s actually pretty dangerous because if there was a real fire I don’t think anyone would treat it seriously anymore. And, it’s very irritating.”

There are reports that at Balliol alarms in one staircase went off 5 times in one night, and have been going off throughout the term. They are only now being repaired.

In Oriel, students complain that alarms in several staircases are so sensitive that they are being set off by steam from the showers. They have gone off more than 20 times this term, sometimes ringing for up to half an hour.

An Oriel student living in the affected area said, “It’s a nightmare – especially in some staircases, where the alarms don’t switch off with the rest, so we get stuck with it ringing for ages. A lot of finalists live in the staircases worst affected, it’s really disruptive to our work. It isn’t just annoying, it’s dangerous – I know several people who just ignore the alarm now. We could face a total disaster if we had a real fire. We’ve heard little to nothing from college about it, so we don’t really know what, if anything, is being done about it.”

It is a legal requirement for college accommodation to have well-maintained fire detection systems.