TPS Headquarters Working To Meet Fire Codes

Friday, August 7th 2009, 5:54 pm
By: News On 6

By Emory Bryan, The News On 6

TULSA, OK -- There's a costly safety improvement for the headquarters of Tulsa Public Schools.  The district has started a project to add fire escapes at the Education Service Center at a cost of over $3 million.

It's a complicated fix to an old problem.  The outside wall is being cut out so new staircases can be added.  It's just part of the job to bring the building up to code for fire protection.

Assistant Fire Marshal Paul Bertelli can look at a building and see where fire can spread.  Bertelli says pipes through walls and floors can spread fire and prove the need for easy exits from tall buildings.

"When that fire runs up five floors and spreads throughout the buildings, that's when we lose a whole building or get some people hurt," said Assistant Fire Marshal Paul Bertelli.

Right now, the Education Service Center has a single outside staircase as a fire escape.  To get out, employees would go out small hatches.  It's an outdated design leftover from construction codes in the 1950's and 60's when the building was started and finished in phases.

"That was a fire escape.  Some people would have to access it through windows.  Some people through doors.  People do not look forward to fire drills here, especially in the winter," said Bob LeBass with Tulsa Public Schools.

TPS has started the demolition work outside to add two new enclosed fire escapes and a freight elevator.  The job will last through the winter.

The building already has fire sprinklers in some hallways, one interior staircase and an elevator, but the modern fire code requires even more.

"It's a never changing issue, as they're always trying to make facilities safer," said Bob LeBass with Tulsa Public Schools.

The Tulsa Fire Marshal's Office helped plan the two enclosed fire escapes that it says will give employees a safer way out.

"When you walk out in that stairwell, you can walk all the way down or we'll come up and get you," said Assistant Fire Marshal Paul Bertelli.

He says the stairwells will be safer than the building.

"Oh yeah, you're not going to get smoke in there," said Assistant Fire Marshal Paul Bertelli.

TPS is paying for the work with money from a bond issue and can't finish bringing the building fully up to code until a new bond issue is passed.