SEOUL — Starting Jan. 1, fire alarms in most U.S. Army buildings throughout South Korea will no longer automatically notify fire departments when activated, a situation that concerns the Army’s top fire official on the peninsula.

“I’m worried about it,” said Leopold Dumond, the Korea region chief of fire and emergency services. “It could affect us at night, because there might be a delay for response.”

Fire officials are reminding people who live in, work in or visit Army buildings on the peninsula to remember to first pull a fire alarm and then call 911 to report fire.

Only a phone call will ensure the fire department’s response, Dumond said.

“The normal process is if you hear the alarms or pull the alarm, you’re supposed to call the fire department anyway,” Dumond said Friday.

People on Yongsan Garrison also can call 117 for fire response, he said.

The Army needs to adapt the radio frequencies it uses for the alarms to a narrower band the Korean government began using a few years ago. Dumond said the Army began working on the project then, but a change in his staff and the loss of a family member interrupted the planning process.

The Dec. 31 deadline crept up on Dumond, he said during a telephone interview.

“I dropped the ball and don’t want to have anyone hurt on my watch,” he said.

There are 1,314 buildings to convert throughout South Korea, he said.

He expects the adaptation to be complete by the end of next year.

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