Wireman Paul Keegan ’84 on Today’s False Alarm and Fire Safety at North

Paul Keegan ‘84, the Station 10 wireman, replaced the faulty detector that triggered the fire alarm during homeroom today in Room 2351 or Room 349. 


Photo by Hannah Liu. Keegan replaces the faulty alarm.

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Photos taken by Sharon Schindler from the book Newton North High School 1973-2010. Keegan recalls the old building. “It’s like who built this? It’s supposed to be like the guard watching over the prisons,” said Keegan about the old building. Keegan was part of the Newton North Class of ‘84.

How did you resolve today’s issue with the fire alarm?

I’m going to pull off the old alarm and put in a new one, and the panel should acknowledge it.

What does the Wire Division do?

We’re like the signal maintainers for the fire department and we take care of all of the schools and their alarms. We maintain the wiring throughout the city that connect to all of the fire boxes either private schools, public schools or businesses.

How does the fire department normally respond when the fire alarm goes off at North?

We have an electronic fire box that gives us a generic rough location of the area of the school like building one, building two, building three, and it reports to the fire panel, and it tells us where exactly it is, and it comes up with an address. That gives us the general room number, and we go in there and investigate. We’ll find out if it’s faulty or accidental. If the detector is defective or damaged in any way, we come down and replace the detector so there’s no false alarm again.

How often are there real fires at North?

I haven’t had a fire down here for a long time. There was one a few years ago in one of the boy’s bathroom in the athletic area. They set a fire in a basket. I think the custodians put it out.

Is vaping an issue?

Vaping is not really an issue. These detectors will go off if the atmosphere has a lot dust in it. It will pick up debris. If the system is smart enough, it will notify the fire department that it needs to be replaced. We’ve had issues where people are smoking or vaping near a smoke detector. If it’s enough for it to trip, it will respond to what looks like smoke even though it’s vaping.


Photo by Hannah Liu. Keegan inspects the fire panel, the main nerve that communicates with two other panels, after he replaced the faulty alarm to make sure that the new alarm is acknowledged by the system. According to Keegan, the panel contains smoke detectors, air ducts, and pull stations

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