This week's education story,"Fire Drilled,"
recounts the details of a long-simmering dispute inside Portland Public Schools' electronics shop.
To summarize: Some of the fire-alarm technicians in the department had concerns about the kinds of inspections PPS
was conducting on fire alarms at its schools. Until October 2008, PPS performed only what's known as a "function test" on alarms.
"Function tests" demonstrate if alarms work but don't necessarily show how well
they would work in the event of a fire,
says Patrick Silver, a fire-alarm technician who retired in September after 21 years at the district.
(PPS, as the owner of its schools, is responsible for testing the alarms; the Portland Fire Marshal's Office is responsible for making sure PPS has tested its alarms. An expired agreement between the fire marshal and PPS is what allowed PPS to use only the function test for so many years.)
As noted in Wednesday's story, the last fire-alarm inspection at Marysville K-8 School (which caught fire Nov. 10)
was one of these function tests, which on April 30, 2008 looked like this:
Note the bottom of the report, which reads:
This does not certify that the fire alarm system is:
that any devices other than those listed above have been tested
the devices listed above provide proper coverage
the devices are installed as per code and the manufacturer's instructions
In October 2008, PPS moved to a more thorough form of inspection. Here's an example.
But the school district has not inspected all of its schools under these new guidelines yet; the district says it's about 60 days behind schedule.