Problems with the automatic fire alarm system in the Waterville Central School District have caused most members of the Waterville Volunteer Fire Department to stop responding.
WFD Chief Will Beach told the Waterville Village Board last week the situation is so bad that when only one WFD member responded to an alarm in January, Oriskany Falls had to provide mutual aid.
Another time, when the alarm went off at 3:45 on a morning it was 7 degrees below zero, the chief, who lives in North Brookfield, was the only one to respond to the Junior-Senior High School.
“Everyone knows it will be a false alarm,’’ he said. “When you’re going six times in seven days that’s too much.’’
As of the meeting last week, six calls had gone off at the Junior-Senior High. All of them came because of a problem with the system, Beach said.
“Every time we respond to that automatic alarm we’re putting two trucks on the road, cost of $600,000, plus manpower and equipment,’’ he said.
Beach came to the Village Board after he said attempts to get WCS District to fix the problem have been slow or ignored since the fall. Some of the problems he stated:
*In January six automatic false alarms went off at the J-S High. Two came in one day.
Two nights after Beach met with the Village Board, a seventh automatic alarm was called.
*Sometimes by the time the fire department arrives, someone has reset the fire system panel. That prevents firefighters from learning where the alarm came from and wastes time as they determine if there’s an actual fire.
Beach said a letter was sent to the district late last year saying not to do that.
*Since Sept. 1 till last week, the department responded to 30 automatic alarms. A little more than half were at the school.
*Five people in the school district receive notifications on their cell phones when the automatic alarm goes off. Beach said none of the five contact him when the alarm goes off during non-school hours to see if there’s a problem or it’s the alarm system malfunctioning.
“We’re getting called at 2 a.m. to check the fire alarm,’’ Beach said. “No one (from the District) comes. That shows me they don’t care.’’
The week before, Beach had met with school personnel to discuss the matter. “We talked about the boy who cried wolf,’’ he said. “Our numbers are down going to the school because of this.’’
Beach and the District disagree on the cause and solution to the alarm going off.
Beach was told, and WCS Superintendent Dr. Jennifer Spring and Business Administrator Tracy Leone detailed at a special Board of Education meeting the day after the Village Board met, that the District will replace all its 400 smoke alarms.
Spring said at the School Board meeting those alarms have to be replaced because they have reached the end of their 10-year life. After a letter was sent to the District in the fall, the District responded that the detectors would be cleaned. “But we’ve been there six times since Jan. 1,’’ Beach said.
Board member Russell Stewart asked how that replacement was missed during an annual update of what needs to be replaced. Spring said she didn’t know.
But Beach told the Village Board the problem lies with the construction going on at the Junior-Senior High. While smoke alarms are being replaced at Memorial Park School also, the automatic alarms are not going off there.
“I think the majority of the problems are from the construction,’’ Beach said.
“The contractors are not protecting them when working and dust and debris are triggering them.
“The school said they are going to buy all new smoke detectors for the two schools,’’ Beach said. “I said fine, but…