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NC ponders fate of dormant alarm boxes

Nevada City1s 48 fire alarm boxes have been out of service for two years, but could soon be operational.

The City Council may soon weigh the cost of keeping the entire system running, officials said this week.

The goal is to keep those in the downtown area online, Nevada City Fire Chief Greg Wasley said Friday. The council may consider the system1s historical value as well, he said.



The copper wires that link the fire boxes and sends telegraph-like messages to a ticker-tape machine have short-circuited for one reason or another, city officials and individuals working on the system said this week.

Before the system can run again, all the short-circuits in the system need to be identified, they said.




Sections of worn-out, copper-coated wire need to be replaced and tree limbs that touch the aerial lines and short out the system need to be cut, they said.

The messages sent to the ticker tape will have to be transmitted to the city1s fire station on Providence Mine Road and to a fire alarm system company, Wasley said. The companies alert the U.S Forest Service and the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection dispatch center on Loma Rica Drive. The ticker-tape machine is now at the historic fire station on Broad Street.

Online Communications Inc. of Roseville is one of several companies the city has contracted to repair the system during the past 1 1/2 years.

So far, the city has spent about $20,000 to repair the system, Nevada City Fire Chief Greg Wasley said Friday.

A jurisdiction fire rating determines how much commercial and residential property owners pay for fire insurance. The higher the rating, the higher the fire insurance premiums.

The issue may also affect the city1s insurance payments. A fire alarm system is among the many factors considered when Insurance Services Office Inc. of Chicago rates a city1s fire protection rating, Wasley and others said.

A fire alarm box system is only considered a minor element when the rating is established, Ed Mertens of Farmers Insurance Group of Companies, a company that sells fire insurance policies, said Friday.

The ISO rates Nevada City1s fire protection services as five, a good rating, he said.

Mertens, who has volunteered for the city fire department, said Nevada City1s fire alarm boxes ought to be online.

3Any time we take an emergency service away from the community, we1re doing a disservice,² he said.

Wasley recalled the fire alarm box system was only triggered once in 15 years before it broke down. Grass Valley1s fire alarm box system wasn1t triggered last year, City Fire Marshal Greg Burke said Friday.

Bob Barker, a sales representative for Gamewell Co., based in Ashland, Mass., said hundreds of jurisdictions have fire alarm boxes.


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