Facebook donated $20,000 Friday to a non-profit in Menlo Park that facilitates the installation of monitored fire alarms in schools, a move that founders hope will inspire others to match the company's contribution.
The Ravenswood City School District be the funds' first beneficiary, announced Virginia Chang Kiraly, founder of the organization, which is called the Ring The Bell Fund.
“Ring The Bell Fund’s launch was a great way to create awareness about an issue that is not widely known,” Chang Kiraly said.
“Parents all over California assume that our schools are equipped with automatic sprinklers and monitored fire alarms. Many are not and don’t have to be legally. There are gaps in the current state legislation that leave our schools vulnerable to fires and other safety issues that could cause a school fire,” she said.
On August 2, 2011, two portable buildings at a school in the Ravenswood City School District were damaged in a fire, resulting in an estimated $200,000 of damage. A good Samaritan called the fire department.
The building did not have a sprinkler system or an alarm, said Fire Chief Harold Shapelhouman, of the Menlo Park Fire Protection District.
“Unlike school buildings, modular classrooms are not required to be equipped with sprinkler systems or monitored alarms depending upon their distance from the main structure or campus based upon the number of modular units or ‘pods’,” Shapelhouman said.
The Ring The Bell Fund will provide money to schools that lack monitored fire alarm systems. The non-profit organization's goal is to install fire alarm systems in public schools and connect them to their local fire departments. Founders also want to install sprinklers in those schools to reduce property damage in the event of a fire. The Fund held a launch celebration on Friday at Facebook, in part, to talk about ways that The Fund could improve public safety.
Panelists who spoke at the launch included: Harold Schapelhouman, Menlo Park Fire Protection District Chief; Ron Davis, East Palo Alto Police Chief; Ted Lempert, San Mateo County Board of Education President; Maria De La Vega, Ravenswood City School District Superintendent; and last but certainly not least Virginia Chang Kiraly, former foreperson of the San Mateo County Civil Grand Jury that investigated the connections between fire departments and public schools in 2009. Chang Kiraly also sits on the Menlo Park Fire Protection District’s Board of Directors.
“We are so grateful for of our amazing community partners, such as Facebook and Alston & Bird, who have provided valuable legal services to Ring The Bell Fund,” said Chang Kiraly. “We are very excited about these partnerships and thankful for Facebook’s generous gift, which we hope will inspire others to give,” she said.
The organization incorporated in October 2012 and is in the process of gaining tax-exempt status, according to Chang Kiraly.
To find out more information about The Fund, visit www.RingTheBellFund.org
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