400 Gallons of Water Flood Phillipps Hall
The water from the broken sprinkler flowed into the ceiling and down the walls of the first floor. Residents of 1 West Phillipps are living in Z House while repairs take place. Residents of 1 West Phillipps displaced for remainder of semester while restoration takes place
Around 12:10 a.m. on Oct. 7, a Wednesday morning, the fire alarm system was tripped in Phillipps Hall. The tripped fire alarm automatically alerted the Minneapolis Fire Department. They arrived at North Central within 5 minutes of the tripped alarm. There was an incident on 2 West Phillipps that set off one of the sprinklers on the floor. Several residents were tossing around an item when it hit and broke one of the sprinklers. Residents of Phillipps were evacuated to the Chapel by 12:15 a.m.
The sprinkler had been cleaved by an object, causing water to shoot directly out of the ceiling and onto 2 West. Facilities Management conducted a test after the incident and has estimated that about 400 gallons of water flooded Phillipps before the water was shut off. Marv Langmade, the fire suppression specialist in Facilities Management, arrived on campus around 12:30 a.m. to address the problem and shut down the system.
The water, after shooting directly out of the ceiling, flowed past the 2 West lounge, down the stairwell at the end of the hall, and directly into Phillipps Resident Director Luke Sutter’s apartment, where the damage was heaviest. His entire kitchen has been gutted because of the water damage, requiring new cabinets to be installed along the wall facing the hallway. The ceiling in 1 West Phillips became soaked, causing tiles to disintegrate and fall out of their places. Water dripped into the walls, forcing the restoration team to cut open various parts of the wall to allow for proper drying of the materials.
Just before 1 a.m., most of the Phillipps residents were released to re-enter their floors. 1 West and 2 West, along with 2 East, were held back a little longer to assess the situation and develop a possible solution. Around 1:45 a.m., the 2 East residents were allowed back to their floor. Due to the damages, students on 1 West and 2 West were asked to gather their belongings for the night as they would not be able to return to their floors that evening.
Around 1:30 a.m., the alarms began to go off again, leaving students wondering if there was a need to evacuate the building a second time. Security officers deterred students from leaving, explaining that the system needed to be reset. After the alarm proceeded to go off every 15 seconds for about 10 minutes, Security and Facilities Management were able to get the system reset.
The students who lived on the affected floors were asked to stay the night in the small chapel, or in Miller or Phillipps lounges. Clay Commons, 1 West and 2 West were the only areas affected by the water damage.
Luke Sutter is “thankful to Facilities Management and housekeeping.” He says that the teams were up late working hard to clean up the water and help with the damages.
“Everyone stayed in pretty good spirit,” says Sutter. “We are working on solutions to resolve this issue quickly. ”
The damages on 2 West were limited to the carpet, so after Housekeeping extracted the excess water, those residents were able to move back in. The damaged portion of Clay Commons has been set off by a plastic wall so that students can continue to use the space while still allowing for the repairs to take place.
The residents of 1 West Phillipps have been moved into Zimmerman House during the repairs. “[The repairs] could take anywhere from 30 to 60 days,” said Abigail Davis, citing a generic average by Restoration Professionals, the restoration team brought in to dry out the first floor and reconstruct damaged parts. The residents of 1 West will stay in Zimmerman House through the end of the semester while the restoration is taking place.
The cost of the damages is currently unknown, according to Jordan Robertson, the Facilities Manager, but it does appear that insurance will assist with the cost of the repairs. “Our construction estimator, from the restoration company, came in to assess all that needs to be done,” Robertson said. “We will work together with the insurance company to find out what exactly will be covered. We’re still in the phase of discovery.” There are no hard numbers at this time.
Moving forward, Facilities Management is testing cages to be placed on sprinkler heads around campus. There is one currently in testing on 1 West Phillipps. However, Davis reminds students that throwing objects in the halls is against the rules. “We want to encourage community bonding,” says Davis, “but not if it involves throwing things in the hallway. That’s how you prevent this [from happening again].” Davis noted that this incident happened twice before in Carlson Hall, and both incidents were also caused by thrown objects. Davis encourages students to make use of the new soccer field in front of Miller Hall if they are interested in throwing things around.
This incident is also an opportunity for students to check their insurance policies on personal items. According to Davis, no items were damaged during this incident. Much of the water was inside the walls, ceiling, and hallway, leaving bedrooms free from damage. However, being prepared is important. A student’s personal belongings may be covered under their parent’s homeowner’s insurance, should they be homeowners, but that may not always be the case. To be fully prepared, students are encouraged to invest in renter’s insurance for events exactly like this.
As this story developed, The Northerner reached out to the student responsible for breaking the sprinkler head. They declined to be interviewed, and asked that their name not be published. To see more photos of the damages taken both immediately after the incident and during the restoration process, visit our Facebook page, facebook.com/ncunortherner, or our website, NCUNortherner.com