Gas leak leads to evacuation

By on October 3, 2007

Students living in the Village and Hill residence halls were awoken by a major gas leak early last Monday morning.

The accident occurred at approximately 9 a.m., when construction workers digging near the Village 460s ruptured the gas main, resulting in the mass evacuation of Village and Hill residents.

According to maintenance supervisor Russell Berubi, the contractors immediately notified campus security personnel, who then contacted the fire department and the gas company.

Although all Village residents were told to leave, only a portion of Hill was evacuated. The gas line, Berubi said, was shutdown while repairs were made. The entire process, he said, took until about noon, when students were finally allowed back into the residence halls.

Jennifer Crane, the assistant director of residential life, praised campus personnel for what she has deemed a quick and efficient response. She noted that security wasted no time in calling necessary aid to the scene.

“I think that security and facilities did an excellent job,” Crane said. “And everybody had extra people on the scene.”

Berubi agreed, stating that the gas company and fire department arrived quickly, and that the response procedure ran “pretty smooth” and “was pretty effective.”

Most of the students interviewed said that they were relatively calm during the incident, and that the evacuation was more an inconvenience than a major concern.

“It was kind of terrible because we were all locked out of the building and we all had things to do and stuff,” said Mike Annunziata, a junior living in Hill.

This sentiment was echoed by Rebecca Kelleher, another junior living in Hill.

“It was just kind of like an interruption in my day,” she said. “It was an inconvenience, definitely.”

Junior Greg Wachter, a resident of Village, was concerned mostly with the smell of gas that lingered after the incident, although he claimed that the scent eventually subsided.

“That kind of worried me,” he said.

“We were breathing gas fumes for awhile. After a couple of hours it cleared away.”

Berubi said that firefighters were careful in checking all of the rooms for gas concentration before permitting residents to re-enter the dormitories. He says that while the scent of gas may be present, that does not necessarily mean that the area is hazardous.

“Believe me, if the fire department felt that there was an issue with any of those buildings, they would not have allowed any of those students to go back,” Berubi said.

The incident was startling as some students who, in returning from their early morning classes, were uninformed as to what was going on. Ashley Schneider, a junior living in Hill, said that she was both concerned and confused upon arriving at the scene because the only information she could gather was through rumors.

“I was actually very worried because we had no time to gather any belongings,” Schneider said. “It’s ridiculous because it’s not something you would expect to happen around here.”

Village resident Tim Squires, a junior who was not on hand when the incident occurred, found out about the leak later on.

“It’s kind of scary, the fact that that happened,” he said. “I guess I would hope that it wouldn’t happen, and that if it does happen, they mitigate the consequences for us.”

Most of the students interviewed were pleased with campus personnel’s handling of the situation.

“I thought it went really well,” said Sean Fisher, a junior living in Village. “It was handled pretty quickly.”

Junior Aaron Mitchko, who lives in Hill, said that campus personnel did a good job clearing the residence halls quickly, given the early hour in which the incident occurred.

“I would say it was efficient,” Mitchko said. “They banged on the doors quite loudly. I know that some people were still asleep at the time.”

Others, however, voiced dissatisfaction. Junior Marissa Magura, a Hill resident, stated that campus personnel provided the students with little information and never specified when it was safe to reenter the buildings.

“Basically they just kicked us out,” said Magura. “It was kind of uninformed. I think they should have said, ‘oh, everything’s fine’.”

Katie Frankel, a sophomore living in Hill, cited similar complaints. She was a resident in Ledges last year, where students were evacuated due to a similar problem with a sprinkler main.

“It just seemed very unorganized,” she said. “At this point I think it’s just ridiculous.”

Crane, however, defended campus personnel, stating that they did the best they could to fix the problem quickly and efficiently.

“I don’t know why a student would have that perspective because everybody followed exactly what they were supposed to do,” she said.

Berubi said that despite Monday’s event, students living near the construction should not fear for their safety. He did state, however, that although the incident is unlikely to occur again, accidents are always a possibility, and that it is important for students to pay close attention and comply with any evacuation orders.

“The contractor that was doing that work has done a lot of work on this campus,” said Berubi. “Basically when we dig holes in the ground they’re usually the people that do it. They know our campus very well. And this was just inadvertent. I mean things like that do happen when you’re doing construction. But the chances of that happening again, I can tell you are slim to none, and then tomorrow something’s going to happen so there are no guarantees on anything.”


About Mark Dipaola