“Fire Watch” In Place While High School Smoke Alarms Were Down

Manchester Township High School (Courtesy of the Manchester School District)

  MANCHESTER – After a power surge took out the electrical panel, students at Manchester Township High School went without working smoke alarms for months at the beginning of this school year, according to school officials.

  Superintendent David Trethaway told Jersey Shore Online that a power surge destroyed the fire panel and system in August. At the end of October, he informed that the process of replacing it would be complete in the beginning of November.

  Prior to the fix, “We had since worked with our insurance carrier, worked with sending and getting a replacement for the board and went through the necessary channels to get the proper certifications and approvals,” said Trethaway.

  Despite investigating the “proper channels” right away, Trethaway added that the process takes time. In the meantime, a “fire watch” system was set up at the high school.

  “We adjusted our workforce to three shifts in order to cover the building 24-7 for a legal fire watch which is required,” he said.

  Those stationed as fire watch were responsible for going around and checking areas of the school. They were paid an extra stipend for the job.

  The cost of a replacement panel was $80,000. This and the overtime for employees on fire watch were covered by insurance, he said.

  At the time that the smoke alarms were down, a concerned citizen reached out to Jersey Shore Online with concerns of staff sleeping overnight in the school to act as human smoke detectors.

  To this accusation, Trethaway clarified: “Obviously, our staff is not sleeping but they need to follow a set series of surveillance and protocols detailed by the fire officials.”

  Manchester administration worked with fire officials throughout the process, explaining that it was necessary to have a fire watch system in place to monitor potential dangers over nights and weekends.

  While the school was occupied regularly throughout the day, there was no need for additional monitoring, Trethaway said.

  While parents in the district were not notified by the school about the issue at any point, school officials explained that it was not necessary nor was it legally required.