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

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

On Friday, Feb 23, in the early afternoon, most cadets in Ransom Hall had their rooms tightly kept, awaiting the official annual regimental room inspection.

Cadets like Kailin Duncan, from Chicago, Ill., had fully cleaned and tidied up their rooms. All beds were perfectly made, wall lockers arranged with their clothes in order, and floors swept and mopped.

Duncan, 20, lives on the top floor of Ransom Hall and “was about 30 minutes out from inspection.” He was in an exciting game of Rocket League while waiting when “all of the sudden, the fire alarm went off.”

“I thought it would be over soon, so I didn’t bother to rush — but then it continued; I opened my door and saw two guys at the end of the hall screaming, and I just saw water spilling out of their room.”

Around 2:30 p.m., 30 minutes before regimental room inspections, the fifth-floor hallway of Ransom Hall suffered major flooding due to a damaged sprinkler head in room 501. Multiple rooms neighboring room 501 also experienced flooding issues due to the massive amount of water exiting the broken sprinkler, said Bizhan Yahyazadeh, the head of facilities operations.

Seeing the huge amounts of water flowing out into the hallway, Duncan “was thinking that one of their pipes just burst, because of what had just happened in Patterson Hall” several days before when a sprinkler head flooded rooms. Duncan quickly grabbed his Gortex jacket as more people came out into the hallway to help in the rooms being directly affected by flooding.

Reacting to the scenario, students rushed in to remove expensive electronics and equipment away from the flooding, to higher ground. While the hallway was flooding, other students took action by helping barricade room doors with towels or other fabrics to block water from entering beneath the cracks, said Duncan.

Yahyazadeh said by sheer luck facility operations was in the area. “One of our supervisors was walking by Ransom, when the water was coming out of the window,” said Yahyazadeh. “This is why we were there quicker” than in the incident a few days before.

Connor Beggan, 21, from Mendham, N.J., knew something bad was happening from a distance. Beggan was walking back from his senior cyber security courses when he spotted “all of these FacOps (trucks) coming up” and parking next to Ransom Hall. After rushing into the building and up the stairs, he could see “the pipe and sprinkler going off, water bursting and flooding the hallway — black sludge was in the water everywhere,” said Beggan.

Beggan, who is not a resident of Ransom Hall, responded purely to aid his friends and peers, whose dormitory rooms are on the fifth floor. Other bystander students, custodial crew, and facilities operators also ran towards the scene, even without knowing exactly what was going on until they got there.

“FacOps brought a ton of equipment to suck water out, right away,” said Duncan, who was thankful the department reacted so quickly in such little amount of time, with such heavy equipment.

Students living on the fifth floor had already come up with methods to try and control the direction of the flood, said Beggan, noting cadets had gotten squeegees and brooms on to the deck while others ran to borrow them from other buildings.”

With students and staff members working as a team, they directed the water towards the drains in the latrine. “Redirecting the water to the nearest drainage system, during the actual flooding, definitely saved more than half of the hallway and rooms from flooding, or any type of damage,” said Beggan, who jumped in “using a broom” to sweep water out of one of the rooms.

As students and other employees were about 10 minutes into responding to this crisis, the sprinkler system was shut off to Ransom Hall, ending the deluge. “They were pretty quick of thinking to turn off the water,” said Beggan.

Still, flooding continued to spread after the water lines were turned off as students and employees continued efforts block off rooms, redirect and remove water from the hallway, said Duncan. “Everyone contributed something,” he said.

The Facilities Operations crew eventually brought in several “wetvac” machines designed to suck up water and set up fans to dry the area, said Yahyazadeh. In all about six to 10 facilities operations and custodial crew members reacted along with over a dozen students.
Students in room 501 had to be relocated to other rooms on campus, said Yahyazadeh. “They were moved to either vacant rooms, or rooms that contained a bunk bed but only one resident, on campus,” said Began.

It took about a weeks worth of effort in order to fully clean, sanitize and air out the rooms, said Yahyazadeh. Norwich “even hired an outside company to fully clean and take care of the rooms,” using “special equipment, ventilators, filtration systems, and anti-molding heaters in order to fully clean the rooms to remove any type of possible molding, caused by the flooding.”

Due to the quick response by all, the rooms underneath 501 were barely affected, said Yahyazadeh; “only neighboring rooms were also flooded.”
According to Yahyazadeh, the flooding resulted for the same reason as in Patterson Hall days before, because the sprinkler head broke off. He said the room had been rearranged by the students.

“One of the wall lockers was displaced and positioned under the sprinkler head, a student broke off the glass insert of the sprinkler head while trying to place a footlocker on top of the wall locker.

Yahyazadeh explained that the sprinkler systems are sensitive in their design. “The way the sprinkler (head) works is with a small piece of glass in the center. It reacts to fires when the small glass piece either melts or is disrupted by ample heat or pressure.” said Yahyazadeh.
“They are extremely sensitive and are made to react rather quickly to any emergencies,” said Yahyazadeh. “This is why any form of contact will make it go off.”

Even though a student is responsible for the event, the university is still providing basic financial aid to help those directly affected, “replacing damaged items, such as mattresses, thoroughly cleaning fabrics and apparel, reimbursement for damaged electronic or personal positions, etc,” said Yahyazadeh.

Although the financial damages of both Ransom Hall and Patterson Hall have not been fully added up, the cost of repairs “is well in the thousands of dollars,” said Yahyazadeh, adding that unfortunately, the school’s insurance may not cover these incidents because the damage did not go high enough to kick in coverage.

Yahyazadeh cautions students to be aware of the sprinkler system, noting it is not “the first time that this has happened,” Several years ago, he said, “a student misplaced a guidon in his room, in Hawkins Hall; it slid down the wall and stuck a sprinkler, the same thing happened.”

“All, in all and how bad it was, I’m surprised that only a few rooms got affected” by the flooding, said Duncan. “But hey, we reacted rather quickly, put our heads and ideas together, put all of our effort into it, came together as one big team, and got the job done, just like we’re trained to do.”

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