False alarm doesn't make for friendly skies

 - 
03/29/2011

False fire alarms in homes or commercial buildings are a problem for first responders, who waste time, money and vital resources rushing out for no reason, and for municipalities and their taxpayers, who shoulder the costs of such futile trips. And, as this recent Associated Press story shows, false alarms also can create problems in the air.

The Federal Aviation Administration said that a fire alarm in the traffic control tower at Newark Liberty International Airport in Newark, N.J. stopped departures for 20 minutes last Friday, according to the story.

But there was no fire, the story said. Instead, the story reported, an FAA spokeswoman said the alarm was set off at 5:50 p.m. on March 25 by a faulty sensor on the tower's 15th floor. She said the tower was evacuated with just three controllers remaining to monitor incoming flights.

Other controllers began to set up a temporary tower atop a terminal, the story said. Departures were held until the sensor was replaced at 6:10 p.m. and operations resumed.

The AP reported that four flights were diverted and landed at other airports.