Munson Hall gas leak forces evacuation

More than 200 students evacuated Munson Hall Sunday night after a gas leak was detected in the building. After determining the residence hall would be closed until Monday, University officials told students to stay with friends for the night but said there were enough on-campus beds to accommodate anyone who could not secure alternative sleeping arrangements.

Warner Alston, assistant director of facilities operations, said students expected to allow residents back into Munson by noon Monday, but he was ” shooting for an earlier time.”

Alston said officials are still investigating the cause of the leak and was unable to disclose details.

He said the building is not equipped with carbon monoxide detectors or gas detectors, adding that they are not mandated by the city. He said no injuries were reported.

Alston said residence halls undergo monthly maintenance checks, adding that there have been no recent reports of gas leakage in the building, which was acquired by the University in 1970.

“Is this (incident) beyond the norm? I’d say probably not, at this point,” he said.

At 7:20 p.m., University Police and facilities operations staff were notified about gas leaking from an unspecified area of the building, said Tara Woolfson, director of services for sophomores and students in transfer.

But many residents said they had smelled gas throughout the building earlier in the day, particularly on the first and fifth floors.

“The smell of gas has been going on all day, and no one did anything about it,” sophomore Virginia Castro said.

Students were instructed to leave the building at 7:30 p.m., when a Community Facilitator set off the fire alarm. D.C. Fire Department then arrived on the scene to shut off the gas.

Sophomore Lauren Kalastein said she is concerned about the lack of detection systems.

“We have fire detectors, but they didn’t detect it, and I’m really concerned about that,” she said.

“I was in my room when the fire alarm went off. I thought it was just a regular drill or something, but we’ve been out here for three hours,” Castro said.

At 11:10 p.m., students were allowed back into the building to gather belongings they would need for the night after city officials determined it was safe to re-enter.

Community Facilitators stood outside the entrance of the building, calling students by room number to reenter the building. Residents then had five minutes to retrieve any belongings necessary for the night and Monday morning.

“They’d call and re- call room numbers in case you weren’t here,” sophomore Claudia Panai said. “They talked to us every hour, giving us updates. They were really good about telling us what was going on.”

Woolfson said the University had extra beds in Mitchell Hall and on the Mount Vernon Campus for students unable to find a place to stay. The University also provided transportation to the temporary rooms.

-Mosheh Oinounou contributed to this report.

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