EXCLUSIVE: New $2M State Capitol fire alarm system suffers false alarms, like the old one

EXCLUSIVE: New $2M State Capitol fire alarm system suffers false alarms, like the old one
Published: Mar. 17, 2015 at 7:56 PM HST|Updated: Mar. 17, 2015 at 8:14 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Lawmakers raised concerns Tuesday about a new $2 million State Capitol fire alarm system that has suffered false alarms since it went into service in January, replacing an old system that was plagued with false alarms.

A company called C and C Electrical Contractor installed the new system last year and activated the new system in January after it passed initial tests.

But in the last three months, there have already been a handful of false alarms, such as one that interrupted work at the State Capitol just before 9 a.m. Tuesday.

"Please cease operations and leave the building utilizing the nearest exit or fire exit stairway. Do not use elevators. Repeat, do not use elevators," announced an automated male voice from speakers throughout the capitol after an alert sound.

Ironically, the State Capitol management committee was discussing the new fire alarm system and security upgrades when it was interrupted by Tuesday morning's false alarm, which caused some people to evacuate.

"Attention in the building, attention in the building. That was a false alarm. That was a false alarm," the announcement said a few minutes later.

As the strobe-light alert continued flashing, lawmakers said they're worried that chronic false alarms in the old system appear to be continuing with the new one.

"It looks like we have the same problem. The question is has it been fixed or did we get a lemon installed," said State Sen. Will Espero, chair of the State Senate public safety committee.

Espero said one false alarm interrupted proceedings on the State Senate floor within the last few weeks.

Officials from the state Department of Accounting and General Services, also known as DAGS, said they don't know what's causing the problems, maybe a bad wire, or a short.

But they said the contractor is on the hook for the warranty and has to pay for any repairs.

State House Sergeant-at-Arms Kevin Kuroda said it's a frustrating situation.

"And we don't know the causes of this alarm. It might be somebody accidentally pulled it. We don't know but we're going to have the vendor and DAGS provide a report on anything that activates the alarms," Kuroda told the committee.

Another false alarm went off at the State Capitol Saturday morning around 8 a.m., Kuroda said.

State Rep. Scott Saiki, the State House majority leader, said, "This is an example of how government just needs to improve. I'm not exactly sure why the system has malfunctioned only months after it's been installed."

Saiki worried people will ignore the new fire alarm, just as they ignored the old one.

"Because the fire alarm was constantly malfunctioning almost every week, people stopped taking it seriously and just ignored it, so it really had no effect at that point," Saiki said.

State lawmakers have asked for a report from the contractor and DAGS about what's causing the false alarms in the new system and what's being done to correct them.

Officials said that at least the false alarms in the new system do not appear to be as frequent as in the old system, where the alarm incorrectly sounded weekly.

Messages with C and C Electrical Contractor, which installed the new system, were not returned to Hawaii News Now Tuesday afternoon.

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