The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

January 22, 2014

Issues reported with fire alarm system

By Samantha Pidde
Herald Staff Writer

---- — CLINTON — Clinton County maintenance is working to solve issues with the fire system at the County Administration building.

The county was given 90 days to respond to the fire marshal, after the building's fire alarm panel failed its annual inspection earlier this month.

Building Maintenance Manager Corey Johnson said the system is operational and would work if it went off, but it is not ideal. Currently 12 to 14 smoke detectors and 10 or 11 strobes are not communicating with the building's fire alarm panel. Many of the indicator lights on the panel itself have burned out to the point where Johnson said an average person cannot tell it is operational.

"We knew this was becoming a problem in this building. Everything is old and outdated,"Johnson said.

Every year, the county hires a company to come in and trip every smoke detector, strobe light, heat sensor and other equipment. One by one, the company makes sure each detector and sensor rings back to the panel, notifying 911 of the fire.

"And we had some 20-odd devices that would not ring back to the panel," Johnson said. "Not an easy fix, because of the age of the system."

Johnson could bring the panel up to working condition for between $7,000 and $8,000. However, he told the Board of Supervisors on Monday that this might not be the right option.

"This panel is obsolete. You can no longer get parts for this panel," Johnson said. "So if the panel would go out next year or in a month's time, we would be wasting that $7,000; $8,000."

The existing panel was installed in 1980, before the county began using the building. While the style of strobe used for the panel is still manufactured, it is not compatible with newer style panels.

"If we're going to fix it and it's 40 years old, let's fix it and fix it right," Supervisor Jill Davisson said.

Johnson estimated a new system could cost between $40,000 and $50,000. He is still getting estimates on such a project. The county has not budgeted for this expense.

Johnson said Tuesday that updating the system also would allow for more targeted reporting of a fire situation. Instead of telling the fire department what building zone the fire is in, the newer system would specify what office.

A more detailed discussion is set for Monday during the board meeting. Johnson must send the fire marshal a detailed letter, outlining a plan for fixing the issue, within the 90 day period.