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Alarm sounds for failing alarm: Red Wing school will replace fire alarm

Red Wing High School will be replacing its fire alarms after discovery during the annual summer inspection of a system showing signs of wear with potential to fail at any time.

The system is still operational, but due to its condition, Joe Faust, the State Fire Marshal schools inspector for Goodhue County, wrote an order to replace the system.

“We weren’t really expecting it at the time it came up,” said Brad Johnson, director of finance, operations, and human resources.

The high school opened in 1995 so Johnson said the alarm system is well past being under warranty.

“Twenty years is usually the life of an alarm panel,” Faust said. “It’s not uncommon we go and replace panels,” he said, adding he has already written orders to replace 20 panels this year.

While Faust said this is a fairly common occurrence, for the school, an alarm panel failure would be “huge.”

There would have to be a fire watch, he said, where every 20 minutes someone would walk the building checking for any signs of fire.

Fire watch procedures have been implemented in several schools in recent memory, Faust said, adding that many of those instances were because a panel failed due to a lightning strike. But sometimes “it just happens.”

Johnson said replacement cost is $142,495, which is lower than the budget estimate.

The only company to submit a bid for the project was Electronic Communication Systems Inc. Johnson said the district has done business with the company before and Kevin Johnson, director buildings, grounds and technology, is comfortable recommending approval of the bid.

The head-end of the system will be replaced during the Minnesota Education Association’s fall conference Oct. 17 and 18, Johnson said.

According to the School Board’s agenda packet – which can be found at – the work can occur during and after school hours and cause no disruption to class or fire alarm protection.

The packet also states the health and safety official for the state approved the expenditure and allowed for the cost to be split over two fiscal years to reduce the impact in a single fiscal year.

“It’s necessary, but just too bad it surprised us,” School Board Chair Heidi Jones said.

John R. Russett

John Russett is a regional reporter for RiverTown Multimedia, covering a variety of issues facing RiverTown communities. Previously, he worked at the Red Wing Republican Eagle, where he reported on education as well as crime and courts. 

You can follow him on Twitter at @JohnRyanRussett


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