New Garden Elementary experienced a false fire alarm when it went off around 11 a.m. on Jan. 28. A quick search Bob Perzel, the director of facilities and construction at the Kennett school district, and two others revealed it was due to a faulty smoke detector.
The detector was located on the ceiling of the main hallway in the school.
Shortly after the quick search, the fire chief from Avondale Fire Company, Steve Cole, Jr., arrived and gave the all clear for students and teachers to return to their classrooms.
Simplex, the fire alarm company, was contacted immediately to inspect the faulty detector and arrived mid-afternoon to replace it. The technician informed the district those particular detectors may become “flaky” with age, leading Perzel to ask for a quote to replace all 21 of them in the school.
“[Simplex] said that sometimes with age, that particular type [of smoke detectors] just start to become unreliable,” Perzel said.
New Garden is the only school in the district which has the particular type of detectors.
That same night, two more false alarms happened from two similar smoke detectors around 9 p.m. and again at 11 p.m. in the same hallway as the first. Cole and head custodian, Larry Rigler, came out both times to check the safety of the school and found nothing.
In a report sent in by Perzel to the district, he said “We were suspicious that the extreme cold may be exacerbating the weakness in these particular older ionization type smoke detectors since they were mounted on the ceiling of the hallway and the space between the ceiling and the roof is unheated and certainly much colder than normal.”
Simplex replaced all 21 smoke detectors on the following day after school was out and there have been no further issues at New Garden.
Incidentally, a false alarm sounded at Greenwood Elementary the same day when New Garden’s were replaced. The detectors at Greenwood are a different style, but since Simplex was already in the area, they went out to replace it.
Perzel is attributing the false alarm at Greenwood as just a coincidence.
All fire alarm systems in the school are covered by service agreements and are checked and inspected annually by Simplex, but the district also has now done its own thorough inspection of detectors in each of the schools.