Many times when firefighters respond to fire alarm calls, they turn out to be false alarms, but that wasn’t the case Monday night as Elkin fire officials arrived on the scene of such a call at Hugh
Chatham Memorial Hospital. One needs no further evidence in recognizing the effectiveness of fire protection systems than what
Elkin firefighters found upon responding to the fire alarm activation at the hospital Monday. Responders and hospital employees learned that the fixed extinguishing system in the hospital’s server room had extinguished a fire caused by the failure of a portable electric fan.
The Elkin Fire Department was dispatched to the hospital at about 6:02 p.m., with the first fire engine arriving seven minutes thereafter. Firefighters and hospital staff quickly realized the fire alarm was not a false report, and upon investigating found the remnants of the now-melted fan in the otherwise
“The hospital can be thankful that their fire alarm and suppression systems worked exactly as intended, prohibiting further damage and ensuring the safety of both staff and occupants,” noted Elkin
Fire Chief Mike Morton. Fire and building codes require that these systems are designed to meet the specific needs of the building and its contents, and periodic maintenance and inspection of these important safety systems also is required to keep them ready in case the worst should occur, according to fire officials.
Morton also pointed out the dangers of specialized fire extinguishing systems are often significant as well. “Rooms like the one where this fire occurred are protected not with typical sprinkler systems that utilize water, but rather with extinguishing agents that displace the oxygen inside the room, smothering the fire,” the fire chief explained. It was thus important for firefighters and hospital staff to work together in returning a sufficient supply of oxygen to the affected area so it would be safe to occupy once more. Firefighters from Arlington Fire and Rescue also assisted in response to the incident as part of the mutual aid agreement between the two organizations.