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Fire suppression tests start early Friday morning at courthouse in Jacksonville

10:20 PM, Jun 7, 2012   |    comments
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Internal testing of the fire suppression system will begin Friday morning at the new Duval County Courthouse building.

A third party engineer will begin formal testing around 3 a.m. or 4 a.m. and will take about 15 hours, said Director/Fire Chief Martin Senterfitt.

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"Hopefully by late tomorrow afternoon, we'll have some idea of where this is going to wind up," Senterfitt said, meaning that they will know if they can begin moving into the new courthouse or the old one.

The fire suppression system is actually a series of large doors -- some garage-sized -- that close off in certain areas in the event of fire or smoke emergency.

"The problem with the system is that the doors are not functioning in the proper sequence with the computer system that runs them", said Mike Freed, president of the Duval County Bar Association.

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As long as the test passes two critical areas, the stairwells and the elevator shaft, Senterfitt said that creates an open opportunity to move in to the new courthouse, at least partially. If it passes 100 percent, then staff can occupy 100 percent of the building.

If the new courthouse does not pass this test, the old courthouse is being prepared for emergency setup so it can be occupied next week, Senterfitt said.

"If by some chance this thing fails again tomorrow, we want to be prepared to be back in the old courthouse," Senterfitt said, "But that's just our plan B and it's running parallel to plan A to make sure that we are time-efficient ."

Internal testing that has been done so far appears to be going in a positive direction, Freed said.

A great factor in that positive direction, according to Senterfitt, is that Turner Construction, the builders of the new courthouse, have stepped in with making sure the testing gets done right.

"One big difference now is Turner has taken ownership instead of going through subcontractors and sub-subcontractors. They've taken ownership themselves of this project," Senterfitt said.

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