Outdated fire alarms can be a danger to students and teachers

The killer at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School set off a fire alarm to lure students into hallways on February 14. The Sun Sentinel  reports that once the shooting began, the school went into a Code Red procedure, where doors were automatically locked, and students and staff were required to stay in their classrooms. However, the gunman, Nikolas Cruz, pulled the fire alarm, “which overrides a Code Red.”

“As a result, doors that would have otherwise remained shut were being opened by students, making it easier for the gunman to find victims,” the Sun Sentinel reports.

Jerry Graziose, the Broward County school district’s former directory of school safety, told the Sun Sentinel that he had recommended upgrades to fire alarm systems so that the entire school doesn’t have to evacuate when someone pulls an alarm. Students will often pull false alarms as pranks.

There are systems available that will give the office 40 seconds to determine whether an emergency is real before sounding a school-wide alarm, Graziose said. The system could also be overhauled so that fire alarm levers are installed only in rooms where large numbers of people gather, such as auditoriums and libraries, rather than in every hallway.

The district included an $908,000 upgrade to fire alarm systems at Stoneman Douglas as part of the 2014 bond referendum approved by voters. The work was supposed to be completed by 2016, but it was delayed and is now included as part of a $10 million overall renovation to the school. The district expects to hire a vendor in July.


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