Cordts P.E. Center Fire Alarm System Inoperative for Third Time in Two Semesters

For the third time in the past seven months, the fire alarm system in the Cordts Physical Education system is inoperative.

“Until further notice, Facilities and Athletics staff will be instituting a ‘fire watch’ in the PE Building,” said Frostburg State University spokesperson Liz Medcalf in an email to the campus community. “A ‘fire watch’ consists of staff members being observant as they walk around the building looking for smoke or open fire and trying to identify unfamiliar smells. The fire alarm system has failed and will need to be repaired or replaced as soon as possible. If you smell odors or see smoke or open flames, please call the County 911 Center and Campus Police. The fire watch is necessary for us to continue using the building until the fire alarm system is operational again. At this point, the bells and strobes are only occasionally operating. If you do hear or see an alarm, please vacate the building and contact 911 and Campus Police (301-687-4222).”

Officials don’t yet know when the repairs will be made.

“The issues with the PE Center fire alarm system this year are in unrelated components to the repair that was undertaken last year,” said David Rose, Frostburg State University’s Vice President for administration and finance. “Last year’s repair continues to work, as does the one that was made last week. It’s unfortunate that these issues came up this year in such quick succession, but they are in separate components. We have solutions to stabilize the system but any modifications must be approved by the fire marshall.”

A spokesperson from the Frostburg Fire Department said that they don’t routinely inspect FSU’s fire alarm systems and that the State Fire Marshal is responsible for that.

“Our office has been made aware of the problem with the existing alarm system by University officials,” said Jason Mowbray, Deputy Chief State Fire Marshal. “This matter is currently being resolved between the FSU staff and the University System Fire Marshal’s Office.”

He added, “While the Office of the State Fire Marshal has statewide jurisdiction, in certain instances and projects, our authority is delegated to the University System Fire Marshal.”

The Frostburg Fire Department is located about a mile away from campus. The State Fire Marshal’s western office is located in Hagerstown, a little over an hour away from FSU’s campus. The USM Fire Marshal is located on the campus of the University of Maryland College Park, which at least two and a half hours away from FSU’s campus.

The office of the USM’s Fire Marshal did not initially comment on potential repairs, but the office did refer The Bottom Line back to Bob Boyce, FSU’s director of facilities.

March 14 Update: Boyce said FSU has received approval from the USM Fire Marshal to replace the fire alarm system’s control panel. Boyce didn’t give a timetable or cost for the new control panel, but said they are waiting for estimates.

University officials repaired the system in September 2015 after the system was down for over a week. Rose initially told The Bottom Line in October 2015 that a new, $250,000 system would be installed, but recently said that a new system was not installed. Officials did not correct The Bottom Line on this until February 2016. The Bottom Line regrets this error.

“We feared that the system was not repairable and would have to be replaced, at a cost of $250,000 or greater,” Rose said. “The $250,000 would have been for a total replacement of the system based on the estimates we had at the time not $250,000 for repairs.  Fortunately, we determined that we could repair the system instead, and that repair is still working.”

The system failed again last week but was repaired just hours later.

Jason Hill, FSU’s assistant director of the physical plant and operations, has not replied to a request for comment.


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