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Fire alarm system to go in courthouse

By Kristen Tribe | Published Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The 117-year-old Wise County courthouse will soon be getting a fire alarm system.

Commissioners Monday approved spending $63,000 for the alarm, a first for the historic structure.

County Judge Bill McElhaney told commissioners an alarm at the courthouse went off not long ago, but there was no fire. While investigating the incident, it was brought to the attention of McElhaney and Fire Marshal Chuck Beard that there was no actual fire alarm system in the building, only an elevator recall system.

That system includes smoke detectors in the elevator shaft only. When those are activated, the elevator goes to the first floor and then shuts down.

“It has one buzzer or horn on the system,” said Beard, “so if you’re on the third floor in one of the courtrooms, you’d have no clue. It’s not a true fire alarm system.”

Beard told commissioners Monday that the current system offers “no protection for employees or the public at all.”

The new system is considered “full coverage,” covering all the floors and rooms.

“There’s a full blanket on each floor of warning devices,” said Beard. “It’s a much more robust warning system, and it meets all codes – state codes and local fire codes.”

Beard said the $63,000 pricetag from Tyco was much less than expected. He thought it would run $100,000 to $150,000 – and in fact, a Tyco representative at Monday’s meeting said his company had recently installed a similar system in Eastland County for $200,000.

Precinct 2 Commissioner Kevin Burns said Tuesday that the county had previously considered installing a fire alarm system in the courthouse, but he had been told it could cost up to $200,000.

“This is much cheaper than what we had expected,” he said.

The only other fire protection currently installed in the structure is a stand pipe. Burns said the dry stand pipe runs from the basement to the third floor with tie-ins for firefighters on each floor.

“It really helped with the ability to fight fire in there, especially with that style of staircase,” he said.

Plans will have to be approved by the Texas Historical Commission (THC), and Burns intended to hand-deliver them this week. He, along with McElhaney and other county commissioners, went to Austin for the Texas Association of Counties 2013 Legislative Conference.

Burns did not anticipate any delays on the part of THC.

He said the majority of the system could be hidden by the dropped ceiling, and if the courthouse was ever fully restored and those ceilings removed, it could be adjusted at that time.

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