Hidden amid the public safety infrastructure of many large buildings, public and private, and largely unknown to the general public are water flow alarms.
Hooked into the water supplies of buildings, they're triggered to send an automatic alarm signal to the nearest 911 center when water pressure drops. It's an invention that's ingenious in its simplicity. Many large buildings are equipped with sprinkler systems that are triggered, in some way shape or form, by the heat of a fire. Thus, a drop in water pressure can be an indication that a building is on fire.
The operative phrase is "can be." As many volunteer firefighters and other emergency personnel know, water flow alarms can be set off by a variety of things that disrupt water pressure.
Such was the case last week when the fire hydrants were being checked near Meadowvale Elementary School in Havre de Grace. The hydrant testing, being conducted by the city's department of public works, triggered the alarm at the elementary school and students and staff ended up outside in the rain while emergency crews checked the building.
Havre de Grace Public Works Director Larry Parks would say later that the pressure detector in the alarm at the school isn't set correctly and that school officials are aware of both the problem and what needs to be done to correct it.
Seems as though the Havre de Grace Department of Public Works also is aware of the problem, but hasn't had the common courtesy to alert the school when it might be doing something that would set off the alarm.
Certainly the school system should get the problem fixed, but the city government should be a good deal more sensitive to a situation involving elementary school students when it is aware its actions could have unintended consequences.
In the case last week, the consequences of the water system testing may have been unintended, but they were not unknown. The city should have had the presence of mind to call the school before disrupting the water pressure.