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Sprinkler burst causes flood damage

Claire Heininger | Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Students and employees were evacuated from the Lafortune Student Center for 30 minutes Monday night when a frozen roof-level sprinkler head burst, causing considerable flooding to various parts of the building.

Both the DJ booth for the Lafortune Ballroom and the Multicultural Student Programs and Services office directly below it suffered water damages, said Brian Coughlin, director of Student Activities.

“It started in the attic, leaked into the DJ booth in the Ballroom, filled up the floor there, and came down into the office,” Coughlin said as he stood watching maintenance workers snake suction pipes through the second-floor hallway. “They’re sucking it out of there now … and the fire department has given the all-clear.”

Notre Dame Fire Department Captain Martin Orlowski said firefighters were able to respond quickly to the alarm, which sounded at about 7:20 p.m.

“The fire alarm panel is back in service; the sprinkler system is back in service. We have [maintenance] up there taking care of the mess,” Orlowski said.

Despite the confusion that ensued immediately after the alarm, he added, “There was no smoke, no flames – just a frozen sprinkler head.”

Mike Crabtree of Notre Dame Building Services said the slope and thickness of the roof made it impossible to get suction hoses to the actual site of the break. Instead, he drilled a series of small holes in the DJ booth’s ceiling, trying to drain water into buckets without soaking the stereo equipment around him.

“We put the holes in to contain it,” Crabtree said. “It’s pretty wet, but the water’s stopped.” He estimated that within six to eight hours, the flooding would be “totally dry and under control.”

Fellow Building Services worker Mike Pierson said the damage was fairly minor compared to the flooding that occurred in the Hesburgh Library Jan. 8.

“Unlike the library flood, we can get a lot of this up with carpet machines,” Pierson said. “That was a mess over there.”

He added that freezing incidents are a fairly common problem during the winter months.

“This time of year, there are a lot of floods,” Pierson said. “There was a lot of water, but by the way it looks, we can catch up with this.”