DOE has list of issues with fire prevention, safety - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

DOE has list of issues with fire prevention, safety

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by Nick Delgado

Guam - The problems continue to pile up for the Department of Education, as the agency is being ordered to comply with fire codes that almost all DOE schools have been neglecting.  "Safety of our kids are [sic] one of the most important things that we need to take care of and we take it seriously," said deputy superintendent Taling Taitano.

However, that was not the case in the area of fire prevention and safety of DOE schools. A letter from Chief Deputy Attorney General Phil Tydingco to the DOE superintendent and education board chair sent last month spells out the problem. The letter notes a summary report of the inspections done this past school year by the education suruhanu, Guam Fire and the AG's Office. Topping the list of concerns: none of the 41 schools completely passed any of the GFD fire prevention and safety inspections.

Second concern: 16 schools had rooms with dual keyed dead-bolt locks on the doors, which are prohibited in educational facilities; third concern: 26 schools had various discrepancies with portable fire extinguishers either being expired, missing or insufficient, fourth concern ten school cafeteria's lacked maintenance for its cooking fire suppression extinguishing systems, and 11 schools have various problems with their fire hose systems.

Taitano added, "Since we've received the letter, we've actually been talking with the schools in question over the last several months in meetings and in memos."

Since GFD issued a notice of hazard to 39 of the 41 DOE schools for inoperable fire alarm systems, the department was forced to implement a fire watch program. however, the report states at least one dozen schools are non-compliant, listing Chief Brodie, F.Q. Sanchez, Truman, Inarajan, Marcial Sablan, Ordot Chalan Pago, P.C. Lujan, Price and Upi Elementary Schools along with Oceanview and Benevente Middle. It's a problem Taitano says resulted from a lack of staff, saying, "The schools might have had various forms of doing this they need to follow the procedures and document what they are doing."

"Part of the problem," noted DOE safety administrator Bruce Williams, "is we are letting the tail wag the dog and we need to just move ahead, if there is a protest handle it, take care of it and move on. We had a protest, we should have had fire alarm system right now but we need to just move ahead." He feels there should be more than just one individual conducting the fire watch at each school. Taitano says the protest has since been resolved, and they are looking at using federal stimulus funding to put out another invitation for bids for the fire alarm systems by the end of this month.

DOE pegged the new systems just under $2 million.

Until such time that the new fire alarm systems are installed in the schools, DOE has to ensure that the fire watch is implemented in these 12 schools or they may face being shut down.

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