Pipes burst in Farnham: students evacuate, basement floods

Dylan Haviland – General Assignment Reporter 

In campus life, students and residential staff have to deal with abnormal situations and emergencies that can occur at any moment.  It takes the full cooperation of residents to leave a building if a hazardous situation occurs and for the residential staff to maintain composure. A calm residence staff is especially needed when a whole residential building is evacuated in this year’s frigid winter.

On Sunday afternoon, Feb. 15 the cold temperatures presumably let in by an open window on the stairwell caused the sprinkler pipes on the roof of Farnham Hall to burst.  The burst pipe immediately set of the fire alarm, causing all the students of the residence hall to be evacuated into the cold weather as water leaked into the stairwell, hallways and basement.

Ryan Pearson, a sophomore and exercise science major, was one of the residents of Farnham that was evacuated.

“I was in the shower when I heard the alarm go off. I wasn’t expecting much, I thought it was a fire or something,” said Pearson.  “So I got into my room and changed quickly and ran out, they were saying there was a flood so I went to Conn [Hall] expecting it to only be about 20 minutes and before I knew it I was out waiting around.”

Moments after the alarm went off campus police and New Haven firefighters quickly arrived to the scene, making it clear that it would be a while before students could enter the hall.

“The alarm comes to the police department so officers went over to Farnham Hall immediately and noticed the water,” said Chief Joseph M. Dooley of the university police department.  “The fire department also gets notified and they responded.  The water was shut off but of course there was quite a bit of cleanup that had to be done so the facilities responded and a cleaning crew was brought in.”

The firefighters soon handled the pipe leak and a contracted service by the university was brought in to commence the cleanup and water damages.

Farnham Hall director, Sarah Autieri and Marvin Wilson, the associate director of housing operations at Residence Life, were there to assure that the residents were escorted safely.

“A majority of [water] was in the stairwell and some of it did spill into the hallway and the basement saw a lot of water,” said Autieri.  “Once the firefighters turned the water off we were able to walk through. Water did definitely start from the top and made it through the basement.  The bulk of it did settle in the basement so that was probably the worst.”

The residential staff made proper accommodations for the students shortly after the alarm was set off. Wilkinson Hall, a nearby residential building, allowed students to stay in their lounge until the leaks were handled.

“Because of the holiday weekend it was a smaller scale: at one point we made a count and we had about 35 to 40 students that seemed to be hanging out in the lounge,” said Autieri.  “That’s not to say students weren’t in friends rooms.”

At around 7 p.m. students were finally allowed back into their dorms, where services had properly drained the water.  Chief Dooley noted that considering the large amounts of water and the possibility students may have been without a dorm for the night, it was handled in a reasonable time.

“In the whole scheme of things the approximate four hour period you get it cleaned up, make sure it is safe and getting everyone back in was quite relatively a short period of time,” said Dooley.

Wilson said residential staff are taking precautions to tour the residential halls to ensure stairwell windows are properly closed to prevent pipes from freezing.

Photo Credit: Derek Torrellas


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