Boiler goes down, fire alarm goes off at Russell Elementary

RUSSELL – On Wednesday, one of the boilers at the Russell Elementary School stopped working, and the decision was made to close the school.
“We did have a boiler down on Wednesday. The building needed several hours to be brought up to a warm enough temperature for occupancy so we decided to go ahead and close for the day,” said Westfield Superintendent Suzanne Scallion.
Scallion said because the building was shut down for many years, “you’re going have glitches.”
On Friday, the glitches continued as a fire alarm went off. Students and staff evacuated the building as soon as the alarm sounded, Scallion said.
“Students and staff did a great job. They were out of the building, and the building was all clear within two minutes,” she said.
Russell Elementary is a building with sprinklers and the alarm panel indicated where the fault was that triggered the alarm, according to Scallion. The fault area turned out to be a staff bathroom, where it is believed an aerosol spray set off the alarm.
Scallion said the area was immediately inspected by the custodians and determined to be fire- and smoke-free. She said the smoke detector was doing its job, and staff acted appropriately.
“This happens all the time,” she said. “We were contacted and allowed students and staff back into the building once assured that the area that triggered the alarm was clear.”
The students were outside for a total of 11-12 minutes, she said.
Scallion called it a positive that the school has sprinklers, unlike other school facilities in the district, and said the students are safe.
“In Russell, we have a beautiful facility,” she said.
A question was sent into The Westfield News concerning the response time between the alarm going off, and the arrival of the state police and fire chief, considering that the Russell State Police barracks is less than a mile from the school.
Scallion said the alarm went off at approximately 10:13 a.m., sending a signal to central dispatch in Northampton. State police arrived on the scene at 10:23 a.m. The fire department was notified within two minutes, and the fire chief arrived at 10:30 a.m.
“The response time is something we will look into,” Scallion said.
According to Russell State Police trooper John Spec, the barracks received the call at 10:20 from central dispatch in Northampton, and were on the scene at the school at 10:23. Spec said that typically with a fire alarm, dispatch will be “toning out” to the fire department first, and while they’re waiting for the fire response, will call the State Police. He said the fire department uses volunteers, which takes a few minutes. Spec said the barracks will respond within five minutes.

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