Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Alarmed and sprinkled

Since becoming Public Safety Director, I have maintained an office at the Lincoln/Lancaster County Health Department building, at 3140 N Street.  Yesterday afternoon, though, I was downtown for a city council meeting, when my iPhone beeped with an automated text message notifying me of a working fire at...3140 N Street!

Shortly after I had left the building, a fire alarm sounded at the Health Department.  Despite around 200 employees and clients who were in the facility, no one knew there was a fire until the alarm sounded.  The building was evacuated promptly, but this was no false alarm.  A pretty significant fire had started in a lower level storage room.  It had a head start, but as soon as the detectors detected, the alarm went off along with the sprinkler system, keeping the fire isolated to the room of origin until Lincoln Fire & Rescue responded and completed extinguishing the fire.  We'll have a better idea in a few days of the source of ignition.

Without the alarm and the sprinkler system, it's hard to tell what would have happened.  This much is for sure: the damage would have been much more significant, and quite possibly lives would have been imperiled.  We've seen recently what a fire can do in an unsprinkled office building of similar size.  This is the second time in the past two days that alarms have alerted occupants to a peril and allowed evacuation from a structure fire that could have been catastrophic.  

Mayor Chris Beutler came to the scene as the overhaul was underway, and had a good opportunity to see how the Fire & Rescue Department handles a fireground, and how the National Incident Command System works in managing such incidents.  I could tell he was both intrigued and impressed, as was I.  In particular, I was interested in watching and learning about the work that must occur after the fire is out: the removal of smoldering materials, the examination of interior walls and ceilings for lingering fire that may be hidden from sight, the monitoring of hazardous carbon monoxide and hydrogen cyanide gas, the ventilation of the building, and so forth.  All of this is time consuming and tedious, but very necessary before the clean-up and rehabilitation can begin.  

It appears that the damage and loss will be somewhere between $50,000 and $100,000--covered by insurance. It could have been much worse. Good preventative engineering and preparation and good response by all involved prevented a greater tragedy.


Tapped Out said...

NICS - another layer of bureaucrats created in reaction to FEMA's ineptness?

I don't question the value of what they do, but I wonder why yet another agency had to be established.

Lurker said...


Please forgive the off topic jump, but could you render your opinion on this http://www.wyff4.com/r/29638219/detail.html?

If the numbers are honest and factual, IMHO they are statistically significant.

Tom Casady said...


I certainly share the Sheriff's frustration. I've catalogued plenty or examples in these pages of people who should have been under lock and key much longer.

The decision to go about are with a loaded firearm should be made only after considerable training and contemplation. It is easy to carry a gun; it is not so easy to use it safely and effectively.