NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) - Nearly a year after superstorm Sandy roared ashore, a number of schools that flooded during the storm are still without working fire alarms.
Sandy knocked out the wiring to fire alarms in seven city public schools and as a result, the schools are using teams of workers on fire patrol.
As CBS 2's Carolyn Gusoff reported, homes in Howard Beach are on the mend, so parents can't understand why a big fix at their school hasn't even begun.
Fire alarm boxes at PS 207 have "out of service" signs on them.
"It's a disgrace, actually," one parent told Gusoff.
The New York City Department of Education has brought in human smoke detectors as a temporary solution.
A crew of fire watchmen -- hired for this purpose only -- are positioned on every floor to literally sniff for smoke and alert school officials and the fire department in case of a fire.
Parents said they had no idea the DOE was using fire watch crews instead of working alarm boxes and worry about when seconds count.
"It's completely unsafe because the school is pretty big. No one person can run around the whole school screaming 'fire,'" a concerned parent told Gusoff.
Department of Education officials say fire watch is a common practice, approved and recommended by the FDNY and used all over the city, including at constructions sites and street fairs. Fire watchers are certified.
The seven schools across southern Queens and Brooklyn that have alarms still on the fritz are:
- PS 207 Rockwood Park School in Queens
- Beach Channel High School in Queens
- PS 256 Annex in Queens
- PS 105 in Queens.
- PS 90 in Brooklyn
- PS 195 in Brooklyn
- Grady High School in Brooklyn.
Parents want to know why it's taken so long to fix.
"He may not smell it right away, and it may be too late if they're in a classroom," Dawn Ruggia said.
Official said rewiring schools that flooded is intricate work, but said the temporary move is a suitable replacement.
"We do have people in these schools who are fire watch and they are there making sure the kids are safe. We are protecting our children," schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott said in a statement.
"I'm just glad our kids are back in the same school and they don't have to travel and be displaced," parent Dawn Grupposo told Gusoff.
Wolcott said he the school system has been waiting for federal funds, but the rewiring will start over the Christmas vacation whether that money has been secured or not.
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