A Monday morning fire drill at Lovell Middle School revealed a staff well prepared to evacuate students but also a glitch in the school automatic signaling system.
Principal Doug Hazen said most staff members didn’t know ahead of time about the drill, in which a smoke box was placed in the boys restroom by school resource officer Steve Coleman.
The drill was conducted in conjunction with the Town of Lovell and the Lovell Volunteer Fire Dept., Hazen said, and was meant to be a teaching and evaluation tool for teachers, students and first responders.
“We want to know how teachers and students will respond to the alarm,” Hazen said. “People can tell when the smoke is not a real fire, but the message is that, when you see smoke, you pull the fire alarm. Bob Geiser pulled the alarm. He did a good job. He recognized it and pulled the fire alarm.
“The staff and students reacted really well. They evacuated the school in about 50 seconds.”
The problem was that, although the alarm sounded in the school, the automatic signal was not transmitted to the Lovell Dispatch Center.
“Bob pulled the alarm at 9:39, and Rick (Woodford, superintendent) called me at 9:44 to ask if 911 had been contacted because he knew the siren had not sounded yet. I called 911 at 9:45, so it was five or six minutes between the fire alarm and the dispatch, so obviously it was not working properly.
“Some school systems have been upgraded. Some components are old and some components have been upgraded and don’t always communicate correctly.”
The same thing happened during a drill two years ago, Hazen said, and Maintenance Director Jason Jolley worked with Alarm Central, the company that services the school alarm system.
“The alarm works, but we would like to not have to manually notify everyone,” Hazen said. “Our main focus is on how the student and staff react, especially to visible smoke.”
The drill is also valuable to the fire department for training in clearing the school of students. Three students were told to hide in the school to be found by firemen, and Chevelle Jolley hid in the staff restroom, Quinn Lindsay in the library and KayCee Twitchell in the music room in a tuba locker.
“This is why we do the drill, to make sure stuff like this works,” Hazen said.
By David Peck