School fire alarm system fixed after News 13 investigation

On Special Assignment

It was a major safety hazard for students that News 13 sounded the alarm on in a Special Assignment a year ago. 

Crownpoint High School northeast of Gallup didn’t have a working fire alarm system for months. 

News 13 alerted the state’s brand new fire marshal about the problem at Crownpoint in January 2018. 

At that time, State Fire Marshal Don Shainin sent an inspector to the school right away. “The system is completely non-working. It’s gonna need to be replaced completely,” he said. 
Shainin said school officials told him they suspect a lightning strike in 2017 caused the whole system to go down. He said his office should’ve been notified back then.

KRQE News 13 learned the non-working alarm system dated back to 1998, and a new one would be expensive. 

Documents show the district got an estimate, which came back at $34,593.35. 

At the time, News 13 was told it could be weeks before the system was fixed. 

The school said that work was done in late January 2018, but once again, Shainin’s office says it should have been notified so the state can inspect and approve the plans. 

“They have to submit plans to the State Fire Marshal’s Office and then our codes division reviews the plans and makes changes needed or improves them,” Shainin explained. In this case, Crownpoint contracted the work first and plans were submitted to the state after the fact. 

In the event of a fire, the alarms would have went off, Shainin explained. However, there were changes to the system that the state required. “Just some revisions. We were moving placement of pull stations, and things like that to suit the schools better.”

“There was no endangerment to the children that were attending the school, there was just a lot of internal plans and communication issues, and I’m trying to streamline a lot of that,” Shainin explained. 

Superintendent Mike Hyatt told KRQE News 13 via email that the school has been working with the state to add additional components to the system, and provide information. 

A year after News 13’s original report, Shainin said the State Fire Marshal’s office gave its final seal of approval after an inspection in December for Crownpoint High School’s fire alarm system.  

“On my side, I’m gonna just try to make sure that we have better communication with the Navajo Nation, and McKinley County, and those that are involved in every step of the way on this process,” Shainin added. 

The State Fire Marshal’s Office oversees every state school in New Mexico with regard to fire safety. But with limited inspectors, the state relies on the schools themselves to reach out if they have a problem. 

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