Keeping close eye on hundreds of buildings, head fire alarm technician honored for expertise, dedication

L.A. Cicero Frank “Mo” Miranda

As the university’s lead technician for fire protection systems, Amy J. Blue Award winner Frank “Mo” Miranda schedules tests for alarms and sprinklers in more than 300 buildings throughout campus.

Two nights before Frank "Mo" Miranda was notified that he was one of this year's winners of the Amy J. Blue Award, he was out to dinner with his family and being the proverbial father—telling his 11-year-old son about getting up before 6 a.m. for his paper route and how kids these days have it so much easier.

Miranda's current job is more complex, but he said the virtues of hard work and dedication were instilled during those yawn-filled rides. As the university's lead technician for fire protection systems, he schedules tests for alarms and sprinklers in more than 300 buildings throughout campus and, from a bank of monitors facing his desk, keeps an eye on which ones sound off and whether the incident is serious.

He also assigns work orders to other technicians in the Fire Marshal's Office and goes out into the field with them. But as the lead technician, he takes the initiative on major implementations. Two years ago he set up the office's computerized work-order system so requests could be better tracked, and currently he is creating files for future online access that will show building floor plans and each component of the alarm system.

Miranda also serves as a mentor. He has earned certification that will meet new state requirements for fire alarm system testers and technicians. Although Stanford's technicians are not currently required to be certified, Miranda encourages and instructs his peers on how to get certification. He also shows firefighters how to use the increasingly complex control panels in individual buildings.

"Fire alarm systems are very computer oriented," Miranda said. "You need to be a mechanic, you need to be an electrician and you need to be computer savvy."

But seeing the system for its circuitry is to miss Miranda's biggest obligation—ensuring the safety of everyone's lives on campus through the monitoring and maintenance of every fire protection system. Yes, Miranda can recount days filled with complaints about dead batteries and leaky sprinklers. Mostly, though, he said his job is fairly fast paced. If he's not communicating with other technicians from his office, he's out in the field addressing the concerns of customers on campus. And during actual emergencies, he relays vital information to the Palo Alto Fire Department.

"I think it's [Miranda's] ability to communicate effectively, sometimes under stressful situations," said Larry Gibbs, associate vice provost for Environmental Health and Safety. "It's done in a way that shows that it's part of a team effort, and that we're all working toward the same goals."

Miranda said his job also has less savory aspects—namely, when it comes time to test the alarms. "Audibles" must be performed twice a year, and he tries to schedule them so crews are finished by 7:30 a.m. But what do you do when an alarm has to be activated in an academic building before work begins but within earshot of slumbering students in a nearby dormitory?

"Obviously, you're going to have to interrupt people," said Miranda, citing the proximity of Sweet Hall offices to Stern Hall dorms to illustrate this dilemma. "I think the most challenging part is minimizing downtime."

Born and raised in the Bay Area, Miranda has a 16-year-old daughter, Marisa, and an 11-year-old son, Maurice—which is Dad's middle name and the origin of his nickname. Miranda has spent the last 16 years specializing in fire alarm systems, first as a contractor and then at Stanford, where he started working in September 1994.

"I've always tried to be someone who respects other people and who helps other people," he said, adding that the Amy Blue Award is more an affirmation of one's personal qualities than of one's professional skills. "It feels like you're being recognized as a good person more than anything else."