GW building officials said failures in New Hall’s emergency light system last week were caused by an elevator that malfunctioned before power in the building went out. When power cut off last Wednesday night, exits signs and an elevator emergency call box failed, leaving one student trapped in an elevator and rooms dark for about an hour.
Courtney Flaherty, associate director of property management services, explained that the building’s emergency generator started when the power went out at about 10 p.m. Since an elevator circuit was broken by the downed elevator, the generator quit and “denied power to the emergency lighting system,” she said
Walter Gray, director of facilities management, said the problem has been fixed. Maintenance workers located the fault that caused the break in the circuit and have been running tests on the generator all week.
“We’ve been trying to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” Gray said.
Gray said all GW residence halls have emergency lights run by emergency generators, which his department tests monthly.
John Petrie, recently-hired assistant vice president for public safety and emergency management, said he did not know about the emergency generator failure, but it “worries” him and he will “follow up on it.”
“We’ll find out what’s going on,” he said.
Michael Peller, managing director of business services, said Friday he would look into the problem. He was unavailable for comment.
Officials said D.C. code does not require buildings built before 1975 to have an emergency system but that all GW residence halls have them regardless of their age.
Allan Etter, a D.C. Fire Department spokesman, said New Hall is required by law to have “baseline emergency equipment,” which includes lighted exit signs, fire alarms and smoke detectors.
Several GW residence halls are nearly 80 years older than New Hall, which was built in 1996. Flaherty said 2109 F. St. was built in 1919, Schenley and Madison halls were built in 1920 and the West End was built in 1925.
She said “there aren’t any problems right now with any residence halls.”
Future New Hall residents said while the emergency light failure is worrisome, they are not thinking twice about living in the building next year.
“(The incident) is quite a bit of a concern,” said sophomore Mimi Bienia, who holds a New Hall for next year. “However, most people I know are just excited to live there instead of where they’re living now.”
Students who had candles, which are banned from all residence hall rooms, faired better during Wednesday’s power outage.
“I think the rule about having candles should be reconsidered,” added junior Erin O’Brien, also a future New Hall resident.