Has anyone noticed the fire alarm boxes lately in our area? Last December I noticed that the alarm box on Mazeau Street and Grand Avenue had a sign stating that it wasn’t working and it said to call a number if there was an emergency. Then I noticed that all the alarm boxes on Grand Avenue from 64 Street to 84 Street had the same signs.
I also was walking along Queens Blvd. and noticed the same situation in Forest Hills and Rego Park. I called my Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley in March and was informed by her staff that they are aware of the problem and have been active in getting the Fire Department to maintain the alarm boxes.
The Fire Department estimates that 20 percent of the alarm boxes in the city are not working. It seems that the Mayor and the Fire Commissioner tried to have all the boxes removed because it was costly to maintain them and that they were used for false alarms. Also, most people had cell phones that they could use in an emergency.
The Mayor’s plan was opposed and it was ordered by a court not to remove the alarm boxes because doing so discriminated against the blind and also not everyone has a cell phone.
Another fact to consider is that when Boston had terrorist bombings all cell phone reception was cut off because bombs can be detonated by a cell phone. So if an emergency were to happen it would be impossible to notify the police or the Fire Department.
What has happened in the months that these signs have been on the boxes is that many come off because they were pulled off or the weather has worn them off. So how does someone know if they are working? They could be spending valuable time at a box that doesn’t work while their house burns and their loved ones die.
Two weeks ago I called 311 because the alarm box on my corner which is right across the street from PS58 on 57 Avenue had the metal plate open and the wires were exposed. Someone did come the next day but all they did was wrap yellow caution tape around the box, which by the way is out of order. In fact all of the three closest fire boxes by PS58 are out of order as well as the one by PS73.
Everyday I read the newspaper and I see this city wasting millions of dollars on so many things. What will be the cost of our property or our lives if they are lost to a fire or some other emergency? These boxes have served the city well. Until a better system comes along let’s keep them working.
Email Richard Polgar: firstname.lastname@example.org