October 11th was a standard, quiet Sunday until the late afternoon when McLoughlin’s student housing building fire alarm started going off at around a quarter ‘til 5:00. The dorm’s residents, following procedure, made their way down the stairs, and outside to the lawn between Ashland Street and the Shasta dorms. Sitting outside students speculated the cause of the fire alarm, “maybe someone was smoking marijuana again” or it was just another (unannounced) fire drill. Both of these hypothesis were wrong.
The cause originated in a room on the North side of the first floor where residents of the room used a carabiner to hang a hammock from a sprinkler head. However, Noah Hurley, Assistant Director for Conferences & Operations, noted that the student sitting on the hammock was not the cause of setting the alarm off, but instead it was the carabiner bumping and consequently breaking the small, red vile of liquid.
Hurley explained how the sprinkler system works stating, “The small red-tube that is visible when looking at the sprinkler is built to sense intense heat before it is activated. If there were a fire in the residence hall room, the smoke/heat would rise to the ceiling. The red liquid is heat-sensitive and will burst, triggering both the sprinkler system and (if for some reason the alarm was not sounding off already) the evacuation alarm.”
Thus, when the student attached his hammock to the sprinkler he inadvertently triggered the sprinkler system, causing the North end of the first floor to unnecessarily be flooded with water. Hurley says that this isn’t the first time accidents like this have happened; he recalls that at one institution, where he previously worked, a student, “hung her laundry on a plastic hanger through her sprinkler head and accidentally snapped the red-tube off.” All of the incidents he’s experienced have been accidents that have, unfortunately, cost thousands of dollars in repairs.
Hurley explained that in order to get the water out of the building the university called in a company, which has been very helpful on previous occasions, to extract water out of affected areas. On Sunday night the company was able to get most of the water out using specialized machines.
After the majority of the water was removed from the area the company then used industrial strength dehumidifiers and large fans to get rid of lingering moisture. After the moisture is taken care of, the company is going to drill into the walls to check for any long term moisture problems.
At the moment the total cost of repairing the damages is unknown, and won’t be until all repairs are complete.
At around 6:00 p.m. on Sunday, residents living in the five rooms affected by water damage were let back in to grab essential belongings. These twelve residents have been temporarily placed into Cox hall, which is where the university houses conference guests year round. Housing hopes to get these refugees back into their rooms as soon as possible, but no exact date is set.
Later in the evening, SOU sent out a friendly, safety reminder via email to students “Carefully read and follow all housing rules and regulations, including treatment of fire sprinklers in residences. If you are aware of potential safety issues, please contact University Housing staff immediately.”