A frozen pipe burst in Baldwin-Jenkins Hall early in the morning on Thursday, Feb. 6, flooding several rooms before triggering the fire alarm. Residents were quickly evacuated in the pre-dawn hours and relocated to the Hixson Union Building while facilities services assessed the damage and tried to shut off the water. Six rooms in total were affected by the incident, including room 220 where the flooding originated. The residents of those rooms have been moved to other rooms on campus — or for those who live in the Spokane area — back home.
The rooms should be ready for students to move back in by Feb. 24, provided everything has been repaired and dried out, Associate Director of Student Housing Alan Jacob said. Freshman Kathryn Hendricks, resident of 220, awoke to a loud boom that came from the wall underneath her window on the morning of the incident. She immediately woke her roommate, freshman Taya Sandmann, alerting her that a pipe had burst.
As dirty, black water began pouring into the room, Hendricks and Sandmann quickly removed their belongings from the floor so they would not be ruined, Hendricks said.
Hendricks called campus security at around 5:30 a.m. and told them of the situation. Once security realized that a pipe had broken, they notified facilities maintenance who in turn contacted Servpro
Damage Restoration, a company for fire and water cleanup and restoration, Dick Pettis, manager of facilities maintenance, said.
The water coming from the pipe was hot, causing the room to fill with steam, posing a threat to the electronics in the room, Sandmann said.
Some of the residents in the neighboring rooms, awoken by the commotion, offered to help in removing Hendricks and Sandmann’s belongings from the room. About 20 minutes after the water began flooding, students from the rooms below ran upstairs saying that water was dripping on them from their ceilings and light fixtures, Hendricks said.
Not only did the water drip into the other rooms but it also dripped into the alarm system causing the electric current to short circuit, triggering the fire alarm, Pettis said.
Within 30 minutes, facilities management was able to cut the electricity off for the affected hallway and turn off the water circulation for that area. Once Servpro arrived, they assisted in the removal of the rest of the belongings.
The pipe that burst was part of the heating system and had frozen because of the cold temperature, below 4 degrees that Wednesday night. The pipe should not have burst, Pettis said.
The pipe broke due to a combination of cold weather, an open window, and the fact that the thermostat was set low and prohibited the water from circulating through the building.
When Sandmann got back to her room, she found all of her possessions in boxes in the hallway, she said.
Servpro and the Whitworth facilities team made her feel informed and comfortable the entire time, Sandmann said.
“I was very impressed with regards to how quickly Servpro and the Whitworth facilities team was able to repair and clean up the damage,” Jacob said.
The time frame of the incident ensured that there were students around to notice the water flow and to contact maintenance, so it could not have happened at a better time, Jacob said.
“If a pipe burst over Christmas break, for example, it may have been hours or even days before someone noticed what was happening,” Jacob said. “The fact that it was early enough in the morning for students to be in their rooms sleeping played a major role in the speed of the cleanup process.”
Since the incident, the ceilings and parts of the walls of the rooms below 220 have been torn out as well.
Dehumidifying tubes have been inserted into the walls to dry them out; the rooms will be almost entirely new once the process is complete.
There will be new ceilings, lighting fixtures, walls and paint; the only remnants of the old rooms will be the floor tiles and the desks that are built into the wall.
Pipes were frozen in other buildings on campus that same morning Pettis said, including a sink in Westminster, Cowles Auditorium, President Beck Taylor’s house, and another pipe downstairs in BJ. Only one other pipe, located in Arend Hall, actually burst that morning, but was quickly dealt with, as the entire crew required to deal with broken of pipes was in the area attending to the pipe in BJ.
The students living in the affected rooms were sent an email from Jacob around 10 a.m. informing them of temporary housing options.
The housing options included the basement of Jenkins, Duvall, East, or, for those originally from Spokane, home.
Those students were told that they could move back in after spring break, but Hendricks and Sandmann have said now that they are moved and settled they do not want to go through the moving process again and go back to BJ.
Josh Lake Staff Writer
Contact Josh Lake at firstname.lastname@example.org