Sometimes repairing a problem before it becomes a problem is the right answer. The Pickens County School Board agreed with that thought today when they approved an intergovernmental agreement between the school district and the Pickens County Commissioners' office.
As has happened already with private residences in the county, the ISO (Insurance Service Office) agency contacted Hinton Fire Department recently stating they will be conducting system checks and various other inspections to determine fire ratings on the west end of the county. The district includes Hill City Elementary School.
Hinton Fire Chief Jerry Edwards and his department have being testing throughout the area on which they will be focused when they came upon a problematic area for the school. By ISO standards of being termed a “public meeting place” and the size of the building, they should have access for fire-fighting at a specific water flow volume that isn’t being met.
The school has a fire-suppression system in place including a sprinkler system which only requires 400 gpm (gallons per minute) to operate should a fire occur. However, a fire suppression system is only to suppress fire which gives time for people inside to exit. It is not a fire extinguishing system which has a much higher requirement. Currently, the hydrant at the corner of Hill City Circle and Highway 53 is only showing 750 gpm but standards are now that the school should have a 3500 gpm flow to adequately fight a large fire at the school. As stands, the fire trucks hooking up to the system would have to call in tankers to relay water.
While that particular hydrant, which is fed by a line from the tank near Hill City Road and Hill City Circle down to Highway 53 then back west to the other end of Hill City Circle, isn’t flowing correctly even repairs to that hydrant won’t be enough. The hydrant when newly installed only saw a flow of little more than 900 gpm. Although the county has agreed to check the hydrant and make any repairs if needed, a larger line than the current 6 inch line will have to be installed to the school.
Offering assistance, County Commissioner Rob Jones has offered labor and installation and a waiver of traditional fees from the county so that the school system would only be responsible for the materials which are estimated at $32,076. They voted today to have Board Attorney Phil Landrum draw up an intergovernmental agreement regarding the particulars of the issue and for Chairwoman Wendy Lowe to sign it once it’s complete for forwarding to the county board of commissioners for their approval at their Thursday night meeting.
With the materials on-hold and work set to begin this week to see completion by this weekend, it looks like the plan is full-speed ahead unless a speed bump gets in the way. The plan is to install a ten-inch line in addition to the 6 inch that’s already placed, thus giving them double lines into the school with a much higher rate of flow, likely around 4000 gpm.
Why the hurry?
The hurry is that with little notice to prepare, Edwards has done all the preliminary work and it’s his responsibility to notify them that this issue will not pass the ISO inspection which would place an usually high fire rating on the school and cause the insurance to skyrocket. Getting the ISO back for a re-inspection is time-consuming so knowing the problem exists ahead of time gives them the opportunity to correct it so the insurance rating will remain at a lower point if it changes at all.
With the ISO ready to inspect this coming Tuesday, time is of the essence.
After the issues were presented the discussion turned to the other schools and businesses in the county the ISO will be inspecting. The county agreed to check flow rates on Harmony Elementary School and Tate Elementary Schools but aren’t able to conduct the tests on Jasper Middle, Pickens County Middle, Jasper Elementary or Pickens High as those water systems fall onto the City of Jasper. The board agreed they should seek those tests through the city.
When the school was built in the early 2000’s the flow tests only needed to be sufficient for the suppression system but the ISO has changed numerous aspects of the ratings system. ISO is a part of Verisk Analytics Company who insurance companies and governments can use to determine a community’s ability to effectively fight fires.
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