Chula Vista and National City fire departments investigate school alarms

326 alarms broken in Sweetwater district

SAN DIEGO - Two fire departments have been reviewing Team 10's investigations into broken fire alarms in the Sweetwater Union High School District, and have now begun their own investigations.

The previous stories revealed 326 fire alarms were not functioning.

The National City and the Chula Vista fire departments are investigating the non-functioning alarms.

Team 10 broke the story using anonymous sources within the district and through records obtained from the district by filing California Public Records Act requests.

One example of an Open Records request Team 10 made:

July 29, 2013

Deanne Vicedo
Clerk of Board of Trustees
Sweetwater Union High School District
1130 Fifth Ave
Chula Vista, CA 91911-2896

Sent to:

Pursuant to my rights as set forth in the California Public Records Act, Government Code Section 6250 et seq., I ask to inspect and or copy the following documents:

Copies of all records which show the current conditions of the fire and burglar alarm systems for all school campuses within the Sweetwater Union High School District. This request includes but not limited to any documentation for planned and pending funding for fire and burglar alarm systems at all district campuses; and any current upgrade plans in place for all new, old and remodeled buildings.

Please comply with Section 6253.1 of the Government Code and assist us with this records request if necessary. As you know the law requires you to provide suggestions for overcoming any practical basis for denying access to records that are sought. You are required to search you records and make reasonable efforts to seek clarifying information from us if it is necessary to help identify the records requested. I ask for a written response to this request within ten days of your receipt of it as required by the Act. The documents should include any relevant documents created up to and including the date of your response to this request.

If you determine that some but not all of the information is exempt from disclosure, please redact the information in question for the time being and make the rest available as requested. If you withhold any information, I request you cite the legal authority in writing. I will pay any reasonable costs up to one-hundred ($100) for the production of the requested materials.

Destruction, alteration or removal of public records is a crime and can result in a felony.

Please contact me immediately if you have any questions. Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.

It appears the fire departments became interested after the research was posted on It's extensive documentation gathered on the alarm outages and is still available for anyone's review.

These documents laid out in great detail the many alarms and strobes that were not working. The documents also showed which buildings had broken alarms, and where in those buildings the alarms were located, such as bathrooms, classrooms or hallways.

Tom Calhoun is the director of facilities for the Sweetwater district. He recently told a Proposition O oversight board the Team10 reporting was erroneous. Then, a number of the board members questioned how 10News could have information on broken alarms, while the district did not.

Calhoun told the board if the 10News stories were accurate, the district would be required to start a fire watch program in the schools.

"A person dedicated to walk up and down the halls to check trash cans to check waste dumpsters," Calhoun said as he described the fire watch program to the board. "To check rooms day in and day out during occupancy and report a fire manually, if needed ... we don't have to do that."

After the meeting, Team 10 learned some details of the fire department investigations by acquiring some email communications from the National City Fire Department, to Calhoun and other Sweetwater staff.

Robert Hernandez of the National City Fire Department wrote the district needed to immediately deploy "fire watch personnel " -- the very same thing Calhoun had told the oversight board was not needed.

An email also read, "All schools shall have approved fire watch personnel deployed to all buildings affected by the outage/problems."

And the email also states the district needs to have the appropriate number of personnel doing these fire watches and it should be their only responsibility.

Read the internal email obtained by Team 10:

Read this spreadsheet Team 10 created to review what we found. The map below has links to actual inspection documents for each school in the district.

CODES: ANSUL– Ansul; HD – Heat Detector; ADM – Relay Module; DD- Duct Detector; CM – Control Module; SD – Smoke Detector; WF – Waterflow; FACP – Fire Alarm Control Panel; MM – Monitor Module; SS – Supervisor Switch; SNAC – Power Supply; PS – Pull Station; TS – Tamper Switch


View Sweetwater Union High School District Fire Alarm Report in a larger map

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