Two fire sprinklers go off, flooding Corps dorm rooms in two separate incidents


Students in Patterson work on cleanup of flooding on the second floor after a sprinkler head accident flooded a number of rooms. Kanisha Gonzalez photo

(EDITORS NOTE: Two fire sprinkler accidents flooded two separate Corps dorms within four days in late February. This is the first of two stories about the unfortunate wet events – this one in Patterson Hall – which fortunately caused no major damage).

It was a normal Tuesday afternoon for Victoria Davis-Cortes as she finished her class for the day and returned to her room to prepare for mil-lab, the army ROTC military science lab where which cadets learn and practice skills they will use in an army officer career.

As she routinely did that day, Davis reached for her rucksack, a military bag with straps similar to a backpack used to carry all army essentials, which was placed on the top of her wall locker. As she pulled it out, it accidentally tapped the sprinkler head in the room.

“It started to sprinkle at first and then it just burst with black water running out if it. In a matter of minutes, it started to flood our room and start rushing to the room across the hall,” said Davis-Cortes, 20, a sophomore criminal justice major from Bronx, N.Y.

That slight tap on Feb. 20 to a sprinkler around 12 p.m. led to a heavy flooding of four rooms in Patterson, according to the students living in room 210. Davis’s roommate was in 210 when water let loose.

“We were both shocked, but then we started to take all our sheets off the bed when it began to sprinkle because it was the closest,” said Daney Reyes, 20, a sophomore criminal justice major from North Plainfield, N.J.

Trying to find help and stop the water, both cadets went to the hallway and began to ask for assistance. “My roommate and I were on our way back from (lunch) when I saw Davis and Reyes rushing their stuff out their room,” said Jacob Alicea, 19, a sophomore business management major from Trenton, N.J.

After Alicea asked what was going on, he began to help clear stuff from the room while Reyes attempted to call facility operations, according to Reyes. “No one picked up and I tried again, but there was still no answer,” Reyes explained.

At the time of the call, the sprinkler was still only spouting a little water in room 210, according to Alicea. Then things got a lot worse.
“I was talking to Davis when Reyes came into the room after calling. We started to look at the sprinkler to see what we could do when the pipe suddenly burst in my face and the fire alarm started to go off,” Alicea said.

“All I saw was black water burst out of the pipe, soaking Alicea and all over the room,” Davis said, “Reyes and I were completely soaked in seconds.”

Following fire procedures, a majority of the students living in Patterson evacuated the building, according to Alicea. “I was not going to leave the building and let all my things get completely ruined, so I stayed inside and began rushing to get my things out of the room,” Davis said, “Reyes did the same and Alicea stayed to help.”

Other students that live on the second floor noticed the flooding and heard the ladies asking for help and began to pitch in. “Everyone started to rush out our things in the hallway and out the window,” Reyes said, “The black water just kept pouring out.”

The water began cascading into other rooms as well, flooding into room 217 and down into rooms 115 and 108 as students scrambled to get in contact with students in the neighboring dorm rooms.

“I started to Snapchat the girls that lived across the hall while others were trying to contact the boys that lived downstairs,” Alicea explained, “and while they were trying to call those students, the students helping attempted to call facility operations.”
After five to ten minutes, at least one of the students from each room affected arrived and more students came to help empty out their things from the rooms, according to Alicea.

“Their rooms were flooded badly, but it wasn’t as bad as Reyes’s and Davis’s room,” Alicea said.
“My wall locker drawers were filled completely with the black water to the point you couldn’t see what I had in the drawers,” Davis explained. “When I picked up my laptop the water poured out the side and my books were soaked completely.”

At approximately 12:45, faculty operations staff arrived at Patterson. Rooms 217, 115 and 108 had removed a majority of their items and began to sweep out the excess water from their room, but Davis and Reyes were still trying to clear out their room and sweep away the excess water, according to Alicea.

“(Faculty operations) helped push out Davis’s wall locker and began to use the squeegees to push the water out the room,” Reyes said, “At the same time, they turned off the sprinkler.”

By around 1:30 p.m., the majority of the students that helped left to attend mil-lab and facility operations staff began to lift all furniture off the floor with a wooden block and dry out the rooms, according to Reyes.

“The head of facility operations came and spoke to us about what happened,” Reyes said. “Then Command Sgt. Maj. Gallimore spoke to us and the head of housing on campus explained that we would be living in the Dodge lounge with (the residents in room 217) until we could move back into the room.”
Davis and Reyes moved their things into the trunk room, a storage room in each building for students to keep extra items in, and into the Dodge lounge with the residents of room 217 until Saturday evening Feb. 24, according to Davis.

The disaster with the sprinkler appeared to be a combination of the way facility operations arranged furniture in the room and not explaining to students the risk of accidentally contacting the sprinkler head, according to Davis.

“I never changed the room around this year. The same way it was arranged at the beginning of the semester is the way we kept it.” Davis said.

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