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Schools hope to continue upgrading fire alarms

February 10, 2004|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

While most of the 46 schools run by the Washington County Board of Education are using modern fire alarm systems, 17 are using older models, a statistic board officials say they hope to change.

During a Feb. 3 audio-visual presentation given by a team of administrators to the school board on the proposed budget for fiscal year 2004-2005, the board was shown some of the projects that could be funded in the new budget. The next fiscal year starts July 1.

The presentation said some budget funds could be used to help pay to repair "inadequate fire alarm systems."

However, that wording was inaccurate and will be changed for future presentations, Dennis McGee, school board director of facilities management, said Monday.

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The fire alarm systems in all of the schools are adequate and meet the code for the year they were installed, McGee said. Schools are required to have functioning fire alarms, he said.

The board gradually has been replacing older fire alarm systems with modern ones, he said.

The proposed budget includes $140,000 to upgrade two systems next year.

Although McGee is leaving the school system next week to take a job in New Jersey, Chris South, the director of Budget and Finance, said the system intends to continue with the schedule McGee has set up of upgrading two fire alarm systems a year.

The more modern fire alarm systems have strobe lights and other effects intended to make it more obvious that the alarm is sounding. The modern fire alarm systems also double as intercom systems, adding to building security and safety, McGee said.

"The new technology captures the attention of some of the individuals who might have visual or hearing impairments," said Joe Kroboth, director of emergency management for Washington County. He applauded the school system's plans to upgrade the systems.

The school system has spent about $1.2 million in the past 10 years on fire alarm upgrades and needs about that amount to upgrade the rest of them, McGee said.

Elementary school fire alarms cost about $50,000, middle schools around $80,000 and high schools $120,000., McGee said.

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