Work continues on new fire alarm system at EHS

By Abby Morris
Star Staff
amorris@starhq.com

   As students returned for their first full day of school at Elizabethton High School on Thursday, work crews attempting to make the school safer for students and staff were nowhere to be seen. In fact, students will probably only rarely see technicians who are installing a new fire alarm system due to the fact that they will be working different hours to prevent disruptions of the school day.
   At the end of July, members of the Elizabethton Board of Education voted to appropriate $148,000 from reserve capital monies to install a new fire alarm system at the high school to bring it up to current building code standards.
   "There was a back up system in here that, after 30 years, was in some distress and some of the trouble lights were constantly on," said EHS Principal Ed Alexander, adding that the trouble lights remaining on clued school officials that something may be wrong with the system. "We had the fire marshall and others come in and look at it. They determined that it needed to be replaced to ensure that it is safe and in working condition."
   Previously, the school's alarm system and public address system had been upgraded to current standards. "The fire alarm system is the last one to be brought up to speed," Alexander said.
   Replacing the existing system began about two weeks ago, Alexander said. "It will take probably about another month to a month-and-a-half to complete," he added.
   Now that school has started, work crews will work from 2 to 10 p.m. so that teachers as well as students will be interrupted and inconvenienced as little as possible, Alexander said. "They were willing and even asked us 'what would be the optimal time to work?'," Alexander said, adding that school officials informed Johnson Controls, the company contracted to install the new system, that the school day ended at 2:15 p.m. and that 2 p.m. would be a good time for crews to start working.
   The system will include new fire alarm pull stations throughout the building, according to Alexander. "They had to put a pull station by each door to the outside," Alexander said, adding that pull stations by each outside exit are now part of fire codes. "That was more than we had when the building was built in 1973." Installing alarm pull stations by each exit to the outside was quite a chore for workers according to Alexander, who stated that Elizabethton High School has 105 doors in the building which open to the outside.
   Having that many exits can be cumbersome when having to install alarm pulls at each one, but it can be quite helpful when it comes to safety issues such as evacuating the building in the event of an emergency, such as a fire. Previous fire drills have shown that the entire facility at Elizabethton High School can be evacuated between 45 seconds to a minute-and-a-half, Alexander said.
   While the new system is being installed, the old system remains fully operational. "Our old system is fully functional," he said. "There is no threat or danger to the children."