Cordts P.E. Center to Continue Fire Watch as Fire Alarm System Remains Unrepaired
The fire watch in the Cordts Physical Education Center will continue as the fire alarm system has not yet been repaired.
Frostburg State University officials hope “to have the system completely operational before commencement [on May 21],” according to spokesperson Liz Medcalf.
On February 29, around 4:20 p.m, the system was reported broken, and the fire watch was begun.
“Until further notice, Facilities and Athletics staff will be instituting a ‘fire watch’ in the PE Building,” said 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).”
An FSU spokesperson confirmed that “The legal requirement is that if a fire alarm system is not operational that a fire watch needs to be maintained, as they’re doing. There’s not a time limit to the fire watch, but obviously we want repairs to be completed as soon as possible. Bob Boyce still believes that repairs will be completed before commencement.”
David Rose, assistant vice president for administration and finance, said, “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, instead referring The Bottom Line back to Bob Boyce, FSU’s director of facilities.
Boyce said on March 14 that 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.
As of press time on March 26, the new panel still had not been installed, and one estimate had been received.
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 on February 25 but it was repaired just hours later. As Rose said, the part of the system that is currently broken occurred in a separate part of the system than the part that failed February 25.