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A prank phone call to a McDonald's in Kennewick, Oregon turned into a serious and costly headache for the restaurant. Employees, believing the caller who said he was from the local fire department and was testing remote alarms, pulled the fire alarms as the caller instructed. The alarms triggered a spray of flame-deterring chemicals, United Press International reports.
The prank cost the restaurant about $5,000 in damages. But that was not the only such call. Other Oregon McDonald's locations also received calls ... and in one other location employees also pulled the alarms and found the kitchen and grills in a chemical shower.
The Kennewick Fire Department released a statement after the incident clarifying that it would under no circumstances do a fire alarm test over the phone. The instructions to pull fire alarms and trigger the chemical flooding in the kitchens would not come from the fire authority, it explained, and warned restaurants not to respond to the prank caller's requests.
Pulling a fire alarm when there is no emergency can be a crime of disorderly conduct. This situation is interesting, however, as the employees who pulled the alarms in the two restaurants were not participating in the prank. As such, there is -- at this time -- no one to blame for the incidents.
That said, state and even federal authorities take false alarms very seriously and, depending on the details of the prank, a false alarm phone call can have serious consequences. Sometimes, a simple little prank call can turn into a federal terrorism charge.
Last month, a Utah man was charged by federal authorities for making a terrorist threat after he allegedly called in a false bomb threat to a hospital while his wife was giving birth there. He was upset because he couldn't attend the event. Michael Morlang's fraudulent phone call forced the hospital to evacuate and be on lock-down for a day in September. Morlang was indicted and faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted, the U.S. Attorney's Office in Utah said in a press release.
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