HONOLULU (KHON2) — Fire alarms at Konawaena Elementary School have been out of service for nearly two years. A teacher reached out to us about it using the Report It feature on our website.

The Big Island fire department said the school is violating the fire code, but there’s not much they can do about it.

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A teacher at Konawaena said the fire alarm system broke down around December 2020. She pointed out that there was a fire shortly after that and thankfully it was before classes started so there were only a few students in the classrooms and no one was hurt.

But she can’t understand why the problem hasn’t been fixed.

“To me, it was really scary. And then after the fact, when nothing was happening, it was still scary. Then we’re wondering, what are we gonna do? What if it happens again?” said Christine Olivera.

Signs have been placed throughout the school to call the main office if there is a fire, and an announcement will be made over the PA system. Olivera said it’s less than ideal.

“I can hear it but I can’t hear what they’re saying. So I can hear when it comes on, I know when there’s a PA announcement happening. I have to open my door, I have to go out there and listen,” said Olivera.

The Hawaii County fire chief said the school is violating the fire code but the county does not have jurisdiction over state facilities.

“The county technically doesn’t have the ability to come into a state facility and tell them how to do their work. We have an agreement because the state doesn’t currently have a fire marshal’s office nor do they have fire inspectors that are going to come out to the schools,” said Chief Kazuo Todd.

With that agreement, DOE said, “As a safety precaution, a Fire Watch protocol was implemented, all school staff were notified and the school has been running fire drills practicing this system… Fire Watch personnel monitor the campus and report issues on an hourly basis. The Hawaii County Fire Chief and Fire Inspector worked with the school to develop its watch plan.”

Chief Todd said it brings up an issue that should be addressed. And that is, Hawaii should have a fire marshal who would have the authority over state facilities.

“I think there’s a need within the state to address some of these issues such as the fact that it’s difficult for the county to come into a public state school and tell them how to comply,” said Todd.

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As to why the alarms haven’t been fixed, DOE said replacement parts are no longer available. It’s planning to replace the system during winter break.