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Pulaski Co. working to upgrade outdated fire alarm system

WINAMAC, Ind. -- After a few false alarms in the Pulaski County Justice Center, the maintenance director decided it was time to upgrade a decades-old system.

“The fire alarm system was installed when the building was built in 1997, so with a lot of the systems we have here, they’re starting to get to the end of their lifespan, and we’re having to replace things," said Jeff Johnston, maintenance director for Pulaski County.

He says because the alarms use ionization sensors, they have a half life of 15 to 20 years, so they're starting to fail.

In the past year, he says they've failed twice.

“The fire alarm of course goes off building wide...and the fire department comes to check the building out and they won’t find anything...in the last two cases it’s been a faulty sensor," said Johnston.

Upon further investigation, Johnston discovered it's a system-wide problem.

One out of the two motherboards glitches occasionally, but both of them are obsolete.

Most shockingly, some of the system's essential data is currently being stored on a floppy disk that was installed in 1999.

Jeff says this necessary upgrade is cost-effective, too.

The center has 150 sensors in total.

He says replacing each one individually costs about $700 apiece.

If you do the math, that adds up to about $105,000.

Compare that to Jeff's first quote for the system overhaul: $38,000.

In the meantime, Jeff says the public doesn't have to worry about the sensors not being activated when they're needed.

“I don’t think that would happen...The problem we’re having is it’s acting like it’s detecting it even if it’s not there, so if we did have a fire, we would know it, so it wouldn’t fail that way. It would fail on the other side...We want to have a fully functional safe facility for everybody," he said.

Johnston says the sensors he's looking at use LED lights instead of the radioactive material they have now, which should make them last longer.

He is still pricing out the system, but he plans to present a proposal to the county commissioners in September.

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