UPDATE: Simultaneous fire alarms, but NO fires, at three West Seattle schools

11:31 AM: We’ve been checking on an odd situation from early today – automatic fire alarms going off simultaneously at three Seattle Public Schools buildings in West Seattle. Between 2:41 am and 2:45 am, the alarms went off, and Seattle Fire Department units were dispatched to, West Seattle High School, Madison Middle School, and Genesee Hill Elementary. After e-mailed questions from readers who either heard the alarms or noticed the three adjacent listings on the automated real-time 911 log, we followed up this morning with both SFD and SPD. SFD verified, first, that its crews found no sign of fire and no other obvious reason the alarms had gone off. SPS spokesperson Luke Duecy tells WSB, “According to maintenance, there was a pressure change in the city’s water system that triggered the fire alarms. It was investigated by security and maintenance and cleared. Systems are functioning.” (We’re now checking with Seattle Public Utilities about the pressure change, but in the meantime, wanted to share what we’d found out so far.)

4:25 PM: Andy Ryan from Seattle Public Utilities says they’re still investigating this: “It is true that a sudden change in water pressure can trigger a fire alarm. Some alarm systems interpret low pressure as high flow — indicating that a sprinkler system is going off. In the case of alarms sounding at West Seattle schools today, it is possible that the problem was caused when we switched pumps this morning at our Spokane Street Pump Station. Our system data shows outlet pressure from the pump station went from 162 pounds per square inch (PSI) down to a minimum of 126 PSI, and then settled out at 151 PSI within 15 minutes of the pump switchover. That pressure drop — not huge — might have caused the fire alarms to go off. However, other nearby school alarm systems did not sound. Lafayette Elementary is essentially across the street from West Seattle High School and its alarm didn’t go off. The alarms at Schmitz Park Elementary, a block away from Madison Middle, didn’t go off either.”

10 Replies to "UPDATE: Simultaneous fire alarms, but NO fires, at three West Seattle schools"

  • ws September 20, 2016 (12:43 pm)

    Thank you for figuring out what it was.  seems very odd to have near simultaneous alarms at three local schools.

    • WSB September 20, 2016 (12:44 pm)

      SPU is checking on the “water pressure” aspect for us, so we’ll likely have one more bit of info later. – TR

    • ws September 20, 2016 (12:45 pm)

       that should read ‘it seemed very odd….”

  • Tim September 20, 2016 (1:18 pm)

    When I was a water dept guy we would trip auto fire alarms on occasion and fire trucks would show up. Flowing hydrants and operating valves would do it. 

  • CaliAve September 20, 2016 (1:44 pm)

    Thanks for the updated, woke up to the fire trucks go by our apartment in the middle of the night!

  • CanDo September 20, 2016 (1:54 pm)

    Hmmm… that’s about the time the water at my house turned brown for about 1/2 hour. 

  • wjrl September 20, 2016 (5:27 pm)

    Hmm…  West Seattle High School’s system probably dates from 2002, Madison’s from 2005, and Genesee Hill’s from 2016.  Those other schools have not been renovated recently. So does this mean that a widespread water pressure drop in the future could cause multiple simultaneous fire alarms at all renovated  Seattle schools? Sounds like the fire department could get stretched pretty thin pretty quickly.

  • Debi September 20, 2016 (10:03 pm)

    The 2:45AM alarm was miserable. As far as Genesee Hill goes, it seems like it has been POOR planning for the drop off location. Our once quiet residential streets have turned into parking lots. I even saw a car block a driveway on my street today. There are many positives to a new school, but it will likely force us to go to zoned parking. There is no other way around it and it’s extremely invasive.

  • Gina September 21, 2016 (7:41 am)

    The water line map may yield a clue. 

  • Joseph Owens September 21, 2016 (9:19 am)

    The sad fact is Stanley Harrelson is a board member of ‘National Multifamliy Housing Council’ and ‘Institute of Real Estate Management‘. He has ZERO excuse for his behaviour and what he did. He understood the laws and the implications of what he was doing.

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