SAN DIEGO - The San Diego Fire-Rescue Department is now taking action at schools because of a Team 10 investigation into fire alarms.
Fire Chief Javier Mainar, who is with San Diego Fire-Rescue Department, said the department had been watching a series of investigative reports by Team 10 on the broken fire alarms in the Sweetwater Union High School District.
"One of the things your story has helped us identify is … the school district should be providing these alarm reports so we can see how serious, severe the problems are," said Mainar.
Team 10 found the alarm reports done by a contractor. It showed that 486 alarms and alarm parts were broken in buildings across the district.
The Sweetwater Union High School District is so large that three fire departments share responsibility for the district. National City and Chula Vista have the bigger pieces and San Diego Fire picks up the balance.
Chula Vista and National City also did not know about the broken alarms until Team 10 revealed the issue. Those fire departments and San Diego's made repairs.
When asked how the situation was handled once they learned of the deficiencies, Mainar answered, "I just wanted to be sure we were dealing with it as a fire department."
Current procedures of once-a-year inspections by fire marshals did not reveal the scope of hundreds of broken parts and malfunctioning alarms.
Mainar said his department is working on a new inspection plan.
"That is something we could have done a better job at and we will have that corrected by January," he said.
The alarms in the San Diego buildings have all been repaired.
National City Fire updated Team 10 on their instructions to the school district as well as the status of fire alarm upgrades and repairs of the schools in the fire agency's areas of responsibility.
Fire Marshal Robert Hernandez released the following statement to Team 10:
"The National City Fire Department gave direction to Sweetwater Union High School District that an approved fire watch was to be deployed by the District and its impacted schools; specific records such as date and time are the sole responsibility of the District and/or your approved fire watch contractor. This was mentioned to the District in our first meeting held on October 14, 2013. As a result, the District should have that information. Currently, the latest report shows that almost two-thirds of the repairs have been completed at the schools in our jurisdiction. The District stated that all of the repairs would be completed by Christmas, and SUHI would be completed this week. SUHI is the only school enacting fire watch in National City."
Chula Vista says nearly half of the repairs have been made, but eight schools still have people called fire watch monitors because of serious deficiencies.
The department provided Team 10 with some of the fire watch logs from one school in the district.
Read the logs here -- Page 1: http://bit.ly/1bsMRaC, Page 2: http://bit.ly/Iv3ZQ6, Page 3: http://bit.ly/1aazqpp, Page 4: http://bit.ly/1b7v6aM, Page 5: http://bit.ly/1dEDExv, Page 6: http://bit.ly/1dEDMNz
These are the records which document school personnel who have the sole responsibility of walking the grounds during the hours when students are present. This is an extraordinary measure for safety reasons because some alarms or alarm systems are not working, or as the department puts it, "alarms are offline."
Deputy Fire Chief Justin Gipson released the following statement to Team 10:
"In Chula Vista, the District reports that 49% of the deficiencies have been repaired. The District maintains that remaining deficiencies will be corrected before the end of December. There are eight schools that currently have a Firewatch. A few schools are close to having this requirement removed. There was one main request for Firewatch (District had to provide a watch for non-operable systems)."
Both National City and Chula Vista say all repairs will be done by the end of the year.