Damaged sprinkler head results in an estimated $150,000 to $200,000 worth of damages to South Residence
Article: Andrea Martineau – Contributor
Normally, weekends on campus are pretty quiet. Fewer classes take place, and many residents head home. However, the weekend of Saturday, Sep. 28 was a different story. I was one of the residents that went home that weekend, but on Saturday morning I saw a fairly disturbing picture on my roommate’s Instagram; a picture of water pouring out of the side of the South Residence building we live in.
Early Saturday morning around 1am a sprinkler head near the elevator on the sixth floor of the south residence was damaged, and resulted in the flooding of floors six and lower.
“I was leaving an apartment on the fifth floor and I remember a lot of people panicking, then seeing water flood out of the elevator. At that point we thought ‘This is serious, this isn’t a joke’,” said Tiaunna Young, a South Tower resident.
Residents reported seeing water streaming out of window vents and through the side of the building. Fortunately, many students had left for the weekend, leaving only approximately 150 of the 350 south tower residents to be evacuated to the Education Building and North Residence.
John D. Smith, Associate Vice-President of Student Affairs, explained that the university is always prepared for incidents such as this, “there’s an emergency operations team that gets sent. I was here at 4:30am, we had Facilities Management [here], the Provost was here, and the AVPHR (Associate Vice-President of Human Resources) was here. This group regularly meets. At 4:30am it was put into action, and we were all here, we were controlling everything. Security was on site, setting up an incident command post, and they were sending information over. The decisions were made by our group and then carried out by everyone else. It’s an automatic response, that we are always ready for.”
The fire department came and assessed the situation, and because at that time there was no fire, it was turned over to the university. There was a small electrical fire in a locked Information Services closet on the fifth floor when a small piece of equipment short-circuited from the water leaking in from above, but the water flooding in put it out. The flooding also damaged one of the elevators, which cannot be fixed until necessary parts arrive.
University President, Dr. Vianne Timmons, and her husband arrived early in the morning and handed out blankets to the temporarily homeless students who were cold, wet, and stranded in their pajamas. Between 6:00 and 9:30am an incident information post manned by Resident Advisors and a cellphone charging station in the library were all set up for displaced residents, and showers were provided in the athletic center. Hot brunch was available from 10:30am and 1:30pm, and around that time groups of students, particularly those who had classes, sporting events, or needed medication, were escorted up to their rooms by security to grab essential belongings. It was a slow process, as security had to be sure students actually lived in the apartments they claimed were theirs, and were not trying to sneak in and steal valuables. The information center was set up for twelve hours, and posted updates to the University of Regina website and Twitter feed to keep students informed.
Floors nine through twelve were allowed back into their rooms by Saturday afternoon, followed by floors one through four that evening. Floors five and six, where damage was most extensive, had to stay out one or two nights respectively. Most students found accommodations with friends and family in the city. Those who had nowhere to go were put up in a hotel by the university.
Even when it was safe for students in water damaged rooms to move back in, it was still a less than desirable living situation, according to Izzat Al-Attar, a resident living in one of those rooms, “When we saw it the morning after we thought they’d have to rip out the carpets. They ripped out the baseboards because the paint was peeling, and the wall was messed up from the bottom. It was terrible, the rooms smelled really bad, really musky. It was really inconvenient because they (the clean up company) moved all our stuff, took all of our stuff from the ground, moved it around, moved our beds, desks, electronics. My roommate had a TV on the ground and it was damaged. I’m kind of a clean freak, I don’t keep anything on the floor, so that was good.”
For a few days, noisy dehumidifiers were also set up in the residence hallways. The main health concern was the possibility of hazardous mold, but the clean up company arrived promptly at approximately 6am on Saturday morning, and everything was inspected thoroughly.
[pullquote]“I was leaving an apartment on the fifth floor and I remember a lot of people panicking, then seeing water flood out of the elevator. At that point we thought ‘This is serious, this isn’t a joke.” [/pullquote]
Residents who were there for the evacuation have mixed opinions on what happened. Although the majority agreed the university responded well to the flooding, some were upset by the situation itself. “I’m a little angry about what happened. Thinking of why someone would do that…. no one’s quite sure what happened, but it probably resulted because of someone being dumb. And it resulted in a lot of people’s stuff being ruined.” said Young.
Even though this was the second south tower residence evacuation in recent weeks, others didn’t mind the experience. “My room is fine now, so I don’t really care. The whole experience was kind of fun, especially Friday night, because that’s when everyone got together. We were all pissed off for the same reason, and it brought the community together. I actually met a lot of new people because of that,” admits Al-Attar.
The university is responsible for all damages to the structure, and residents are responsible for replacing their own belongings. This is mentioned both in the residency contract and at the residence orientation held at the beginning of the semester. Due to recent confusion about it, the university will be editing the residence contracts to make this information more visible. Currently the damages to the building are estimated to be between $150,000-$200,000, and will be paid by the university’s insurance.
Two students have confessed to damaging the sprinkler head, and were evicted from residence on Friday, Oct. 11. The names of these students cannot be disclosed for privacy reasons. Investigation by the Regina Police Service and U of R campus security is ongoing as the Carillon headed to press, and many interviews regarding the incident will have to be sorted through before further disciplinary action can be taken. Between the North and South Towers, there have already been three evacuations this semester. It’s hoped that residents now understand the consequences of tampering with fire equipment, and that these evacuations can be avoided in the future.