New Hall residents returned to their rooms this week after maintenance workers repaired areas of the building that were damaged when sprinklers activated Saturday.
But students recalled the inconvenience earlier in the week, and two students are being investigated for tampering with the sprinkler system.
The sound of a fire alarm Saturday morning did not concern New Hall residents Erin Donohue and Autumn Deatherage. But the sight of water leaking beneath their refrigerator did worry them as they evacuated the building along with other residents, they said.
“We figured the water was due to a refrigerator problem,” Donohue said. “But when the (University Police) officer smiled and said `uh-oh’ when I told him my room number, I got worried.”
During the 20 minutes that residents stood outside New Hall waiting for the D.C. Fire Department to shut off a fourth-floor sprinkler, one hallway, five rooms and a study lounge were flooded with water.
“Our first priority was that students were moved to rooms in which they could study and sleep comfortably,” said Assistant Dean of Students Mark Levine. “Some picked (the offered rooms), and others stayed with friends.”
UPD is investigating the cause of activation of the sprinkler in room 407. The glass bulb, which activates the sprinkler when melted or broken, was shattered, but there was no damage to any other part of the sprinkler, UPD Associate Director Anthony RoccoGrande said.
“A service technician has inspected the sprinkler, and it is his opinion that it was tampered with intentionally,” RoccoGrande said.
D.C. and University police officers interviewed residents in room 407. The residents refused to comment on the situation to The GW Hatchet.
The activated sprinkler caused problems for residents in rooms adjacent to 407 and directly below.
“The sprinkler went off next door to us, but it soaked through our walls and flooded a bedroom and our living area,” Charis Donnelly said.
Donnelly said she and her three roommates were forced to stay in friends’ rooms Saturday because they were not offered an optional room. After they complained to the Community and Living and Learning Center about their situation, CLLC officials offered her roommates guest rooms in Mitchell Hall the next day, Donnelly said.
“Our room was flooded with two inches of water, and we have some damage,” said Brandyn Roark, a neighbor of room 407. “But their room is completely ruined.”
Two rooms directly beneath the source of flooding also were substantially damaged.
Residents of room 307 opted for a Riverside Hall room after returning to their flooded room, where water ruined one computer and stained walls in a bedroom, New Hall resident Jill Caplan said.
After walking into a two-inch pool of floating heart candies and papers, roommates Katie Biber and Donohue took a room in the GW Inn, Donohue said.
Residents of the second-floor room said they were pleased with the University’s response to the emergency.
“I was really happy that the maintenance people put valuable things up high away from the water when it occurred,” Biber said. “I am pleasantly surprised by the University.”
Although the University’s immediate response to the flood impressed residents, some said CLLC’s responsiveness remains questionable.
“They handled it really well at first and helped us out, but now that the water is gone, we’re not a priority,” Donohue said.
Now that all affected residents are back in their rooms, some students have expressed similar concerns.
“Maintenance has shampooed the carpets, but I’m worried our room will never completely dry and mildew will build,” Donnelly said. “My roommate is allergic to mildew.”
“They say our room is habitable now, but I’m not so sure,” Biber said. “You kind of have to get used to the smell.”
Students are encouraged to compile a list of damaged property, along with receipts, to replace property ruined during the flood, Levine said.