By Siobhan Murray
The local fire department arrived on the scene early Monday morning to address the flooded biology building caused by the malfunctioning heating system.
The faulty system caused a sprinkler to go off in the building at 3:30 a.m. on Monday morning. After reaching maximum heat levels all weekend, the heating system reached temperatures of over 100 F by the time the sprinkler system went off.
The flooding began on the second floor and later leaked through to the first floor and eventually the basement, necessitating a major clean-up effort. Room 203 reached the highest levels, setting off a sprinkler designed to come on at high temperatures.
“I arrived on campus very early, around ten to five, and … I saw several fire trucks blocking the street next to the Bio building. There were some ladders going up to a second story classroom, which had all its windows thrown open, and the lights on in the surrounding classrooms,” Kate Parker, English Professor and Editorial Associate at the Bucknell University Press, said. “I didn’t see or smell smoke, so I asked the fireman directing traffic what was going on — there were so many trucks, I just wanted to make sure it was safe to go into my office in Taylor. He replied that a heater had malfunctioned in one of the offices in the Bio building, and that the room had become so hot that it had set off the sprinklers.”
After the combined efforts of the Public Safety, Fire and Faculties Maintenance departments, as well as the custodial staff, the area was cleaned and determined to have no lasting damage. However, some Monday morning classes were relocated or canceled.
The first step in combating the problem was shutting off the water system before the custodial staff was brought in for the clean up.
“It’s a routine procedure for us,” said Jim McCormick, Environmental Health and Safety manager. “We just follow protocol in water release. All the credit really goes to the custodial staff, who were able to clean up everything in less than five hours after the incident. That goes to show how effective they are at doing their job.”
In addition to custodians, Gregory Koontz, Mike Patterson, Lee Hess, Pete Bergonia, Gary Layton and Mike Curry helped to resolve the issues Monday morning. The cleanup was finished by 11 a.m. Monday.
“We will be installing safeguards to prevent an incident like this from happening again,” said Mike Patterson, director of Facility Services. “The air handler should have shut down at the right time.”
Air valves and feeds to air compressors will be replaced, and the air compressor system will be connected to that in the chemistry building. If a failure happens again, the compressors will serve as a back-up.