False fire alarms prompt revision of emergency plans

Dec. 7, 2001, midnight | By Kevin Chang | 19 years, 1 month ago

After several faulty fire drills, Blair is making changes to its emergency plans.

Blair has had five unplanned fire drills so far this school year according to Mark Curran, chairman of Blair's Crisis Planning Committee. Fire alarms were set off twice by a faulty sensor on the third floor, once by a sensor in the elevator shaft and twice by a hand-pulled alarm or "pull station" outside of the library.

Overall, Curran is pleased with the progress Blair is making with emergency plans. "I think evacuation of the building is going extremely well," he said. "We're getting really good at accountability during drills."

Blair has six pull stations, all of which are located on the first floor. The fire department has deemed stations on the second and third floors unnecessary because of the building's system of automatic sensors. Curran said that the building's system of cameras is always trained on the fire alarms. "There are 36 cameras within the building that [provide] an abundance of video surveillance," he said.

Both drills caused by the hand-pulled alarm occurred after students unintentionally allowed their backpacks to hit the notifier's handle. "They hit the alarm, see the lights, look confused and walk away," Curran said.

Video surveillance showed that neither of the students who activated the fire alarms was intentionally causing a false fire drill. He added that if a student did intentionally cause a false alarm, "We could isolate this with the video that we have." After every fire alarm, Head of Security Otis Reddick, Building Services Manager James Brown and Curran look over the video to see what caused the problem.

The penalty for knowingly reporting a false alarm is a $500 fine and any punishment the school deems necessary. Curran said that there were "a few" such alarms two years ago, and that the students responsible were quickly caught, fined and expelled.

The two drills caused by the faulty sensor outside of room 340 have been attributed to wiring problems. According to Curran, each time a faulty automatic sensor causes a problem, a building services worker or technician checks the alarm and decides what action, if any, should be taken.

Curran attributed the elevator shaft alarm to a technician who stirred up some dust as he was working on the sensor. The alarm took the dust to be smoke.

In a schoolwide message on November 28, Principal Phillip Gainous told students to "take every drill seriously" and announced an upcoming Code Red drill.

The school's Emergency Response Team is currently upgrading its plan for fire alarms that occur during lunch and between classes. The plan will be tested in the spring.

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Kevin Chang. Kevin Chang was born on April 28, 1985. This makes him a bull, and coincidentally, a Taurus. Somehow, he ended up in the Magnet program at Montgomery Blair High School, where he is now a SENIOR! 03! Yes, he is a geek. He is often … More »

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