Current safety codes outpace school upgrades: Newer smoke detectors not installed in original buildings

Serra Raquel, Entertainment Editor

During the second quarter, there was a fire in the J restroomn adjacent to the career center. The alarm never went off and the fire went undetected until someone saw smoke escaping through the door.

The maintenance operator was called to test the detectors to see if they worked. He immediately realized the alarm did not go off because the bathroom had heat detectors, not smoke detectors.

When Bear Creek was originally built in 1991, buildings were required to have heat detectors; since then, the requirement has changed to smoke detectors.

In spite of the new code, Bear Creek’s original buildings are not required to update to smoke detectors, but the district is not required to bring the older buildings up to the current code.

Newer buildings include the A portables and the theater.

According to Bill Costanza from fire prevention, smoke detectors are usually used for sleeping environments. Classrooms are not required to have heat detectors. Once installed, all detectors are required to work.

The heat detectors at Bear Creek are fully functioning, but are located on the ceilings. If and when a fire occurs, the heat detectors would not go off until the fire was high enough to reach the ceiling.

“Small fires don’t produce a lot of heat, they produce a lot of smoke,” plant supervisor Matt Stokes said.
The district has denied the school’s request to change any of the heat detectors to smoke detectors.

“The district standing is that all buildings meet code,” Vice Principal Sera Baysinger said. “At this time there is no plan on changing any of the fire alarm systems, including smoke detectors vs. heat detectors.”

Fire Safety is not the only concern at Bear Creek. The number of work orders submitted to fix broken items on campus continues to grow.

Just this school year, there have been 237 closed work orders, which are requests that have been either completed or rejected. Over 120 work orders are still currently open, 79 of which are from this year.

Broken gates at Bear Creek is an ongoing issue, requiring numerous work orders.

With students regularly going in and out of campus, gates are often left open.

“Any time anyone goes by an open gate, the expectation is that they close it,” Baysinger said.

“Before they were fixed, we would go by them [and close them] after every passing period,” campus security Dwayne Lilly said.

A work order for the gate at the front of the school was submitted in February of 2017 and was responded to and fixed. That same gate was broken and fixed in May.

On September 8, a work order for a broken gate was put in with “security issue” in the description. Maintenance did not respond, so another work order for the same gate had to be put in for it to be accepted.

The gate next to the bike rack often breaks due to objects being inserted to keep it propped open.

Both the front gate and the gate next to the bike rack were fixed at the beginning of February.

Even with the gates fully functioning, students have displayed a habit of opening the campus gates for people outside, despite signs reading “STOP! SAFETY FIRST! Do not open this gate for anyone! All visitors MUST check-in at the front office.” The outside of the gates have a sign reading “ATTENTION! Trespassing/Loitering on school grounds is forbidden by law.”

Students are advised to never open gates for outsiders, since all staff members have a key. Anyone who does not have a key must enter the school through the front office.

Work order requests are completed in order of priority in the district rather than in chronological order, so the time of response for any work order is unpredictable.

On May 15, 2017, Bear Creek was inspected by the fire marshal, who suggested that a knox box be installed to the front of the campus. A knox box is container for master keys to the building for quicker entry to the campus in cases of emergency.

Maintenance approved the request for installation that same day, making it a closed work order. However, the knox box has yet to be installed to this date.

Mitch Slater, LUSD Director of Maintenance, was contacted several times regarding these safety issues, but he refused to comment.