1. #1
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    Default Fire Watch Problem???

    This is strange and unique situation that I still can't believe. This was told to me or should I say "made as a threat". Here is the situation.

    The local public High School in town had it's fire alarm system die. The system was put in 1959. It died when the school principal attempted to conduct a fire drill and pulled a pull station and nothing happened. The Principal contacted my office immediately and it was determined a short time later by the fire alarm contractor that the system could not be repaired. The Superintendent was upset with Principal for notifying us.

    Under NJ fire code, if a required fire alarm system becomes inoperable it states the building MUST be vacated until the system is returned to service. As an option to closing the school, we proposed to have the Board of Ed hire 2 firefighters to be do a "Firewatch" during school sessions from 7:30am until 3:00pm and hire 1 firefighter for after school activities with exception of games, plays, etc, which we required 2 firefighters for, until these school activities were completed at night.

    The Superintendent was not in favor of this and objected to it. He felt his janitors and teachers could do it. We objected and ultimately the Firewatch went into affect until the new fire alarm panel, all manual pulls and horn/strobes were installed, tested and approved. About 3 weeks to have this work completed. The automatic detection portion of the system was to commence immediately and be completed, tested and approved by December 31, 2003.

    The Superintendent contends that we (the local FD) greased our own pockets. We mandated something that only we could perform and profit from. He is threatening to go the Prosecutors office with it. I could not believe he said/threatened us with it. I told him that if he felt we broke a law to go ahead and make the call. This is his position and that of some Board members, who are attorneys. His view on fire safety is not good and our relationship with the Superintendent and the Board is “strained”. Our Mayor and Council are in support of us, which is a good to have under these circumstances.

    My gut tells me he does not have a leg to stand on. Does anyone have any experience in a situation like this? In my 23 years I have never seen or experienced anything like this.

    Any help would be appreciated.

    Thanks,

    Capt. Lou

  2. #2
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    Umm he is a moron. I wouldn't take his treat to heart it more then likey not stand in court, but what do I know im just an explorer.

  3. #3
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    Does the NJ fire code allow a fire watch in lieu of the system or was this a local decision?

    If the code does not allow the fire watch then the courts would have to decide if it was legal to do so.

    If the complaint is filed you should be prepared to defend why only a fire deaprtment member could do the fire watch.

    George, Do you have any insight into a situation like this?

    Stay Safe
    IACOJ

  4. #4
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    I'm afraid I can't offer any insight here, but I would be grateful if you could give us updates on this situation as it is resolved.

    Best of luck to you and your department. I think you did the right thing.
    Last edited by ullrichk; 12-07-2003 at 01:37 AM.
    ullrichk
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  5. #5
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    The responsibility rests on the fire cheif not the superintendent.... F.D. has the final say!

  6. #6
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    As a Fire Alarm professional, I commend you and your department for doing the right thing. Being in New Jersey it is encouraging to see a fire department running a professional fire prevention office. Too often in this state there is little to no enforcement especially in my neck of the woods.

    Sounds to me like the superintendant is being a jerk. Sounds like he is mad because he got caught doing something wrong. Many of these types think they are "Fire prevention experts" and the qualified persons such as yourselves dont have the final say, when they are in fact wrong. According to NFPA 72 which dictates Fire Alarm Systems, The AHJ (Authority Having Jurisdiction) is the one who has the final say: A Fire Marshall or Fire Prevention Officer falls under this definition.

    As you state this guys view on fire safety is not good, especially if he allowed a fire alarm system from 1959 to still be in service! That is scary. Anyway ask him how he would have liked it if a fire broke out in the school with no fire alarm working and no firewatch and some one died. You can bet the school board would be sued for that one.

    You are correct to say he dont have a leg to stand on. Love the comment about "Greasing Your Pockets" hehe Please like the FD installs fire alarm systems! and doing something which you could profit and perform??? You guys did your job! You performed your job as required. Only profit would be the permits, required by law.



    Best of luck to you and your FD,

    Sean
    Last edited by Alarmman73; 12-07-2003 at 02:34 AM.

  7. #7
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    I'd let the parents know about this fellow and his policies. But, I don't agree with hiring the firefighters. Isn't this their job?

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    I'm a little rusty on the whole Life Safety Code but I'm pretty sure that it states in there somewhere that if the required alarm system is inoperable that a suitable remedy designated by the authority having jurisdiction is required, ie., the fire marshall or fire chief depending on the law in your state. Plus you have the law about firewatch already. In my opinion the Superintendent is a moron and doesn't have a leg to stand on and should just shut up.

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    Thumbs up Overall I think you did right..

    Not aquanted with your state law but from reading the other posts, sounds like it was an excellent temporary solution. Regarding their (Superintendant and some board members) complaint regarding lining your pockets, 1. did you charge an excessive amount?, 2. Are the members preforming the firewatch, normally paid or volunteer's, (nothing against paid Ff's, just wonder.)?, 3. Other than teachers, custodians doing it were other options examined?, 4. If they were so concerned, seems like a long time to get the new system in, (yeah more $$$ for overtime but could have been done quicker, I'm sure.)?, 5. Was the fire watch confined to members of your dept. or was it any firefighters from the area?

    His being upset with the reporting of the situation, makes me cringe, would he have just let it slide or what? Again above questions not being negative, just clarifying. Agree with your solution, but if there are lawyers involved beware, you can be right and they still will make trouble for you. Good luck.
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  10. #10
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    If I am not mistaken here in Ohio the AHJ can do what occurrred there because it is a public building. Also I know in our town the Ohio Fire Marshall inspects the schools and we have been used to Firewatch at a special event when the drama club wanted to alter something in the auditorium. I would say either put FF's in the school or shut 'em down. May not be popular but not NEARLY as popular as a bad newspaper headline about a fire at a school with an outdated or non working alarm system that cause a number of deaths.
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    Geez Lou, do you know anybody at the MCPO?

    Let him come. He is damn lucky you guys just didn't force him to shut the school. The scary part is that you don't even know how long the system was inoperable!

    Call me tomorrow after 1000.

  12. #12
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    I'd let the parents know about this fellow and his policies. But, I don't agree with hiring the firefighters. Isn't this their job?
    Most do know. It was kinda hard for them not to hear it from their kids that two firefighters where walking around the school all day. as for the fire fighters, they where off duty. Hence the hiring.

    Truth to the matter thefire department tried every angle to help the school board out and avoid closing the school. They (the board of ed) have a problem with thinking that they are above local laws and codes that pertain to the rest. As per code the fire alarm in all of the schools is tested twice every month, and logged by the fire department. (all of the schools fire alarms signals go directly to fire hq dispatch.) There is so much more to this story that goes in our favor. I will stop now and let the captian fill in the rest.
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