There was a carbon monoxide scare in Building A (also known as “New Gartland” to some) on Monday, October 31st. Though this may have frightened some people more than any clown running amuck, nobody was harmed, and the premises was safe and secure later that same day. Students were evacuated from their rooms at approximately 10:20 in the morning and although students had no idea when they would be allowed back in at the beginning of the evacuation, the process to secure the building took about four and a half hours and students were welcomed back into the building in between 2:20 and 3:00 in the afternoon depending on who you asked.
Chanel, the Resident Director of the building, said “It was a ventilation issue, not a leak.” When such alarms do go off, the fire department has to run through the typical protocol. One dispatch firefighter explained that they “shut off all the potential sources and then let the mechanics get in there and figure out what the problem was.” Fairview Fire Department also had to block off the entrance to the north side of campus, and have Marist Security direct traffic around it to make room for the fire truck and other procedures relating to the incident.
Justin Butwell, Director of the Physical Plant, sent out a notice the day after the incident explaining what had happened and what steps were taken to resolve the problem. “In consultation with, BALA, the mechanical engineer that designed the building’s heating system, we were able to determine that carbon monoxide entered the basement of the building through a door near the buildings exterior exhaust pipes.” The email continued “The door was sealed with weather stripping after the incident.”
Mr. Butwell explained to me in further detail, that there are boilers, and water heaters in the basement of Building A. There are also two elevators in the building that go from the top floor to the basement. When those elevators go up, they create suction, and exhaust air was inadvertently coming through two double doors right by them, which weren’t sealed tight enough. “These doors need to be big enough” Mr. Butwell explains “so when you need heavy machinery to replace things like boilers in the basement, such machinery is capable of fitting through the doors.” The doors unfortunately weren’t sealed tight enough, and when elevators would go up, it would create carbon monoxide in the basement.
The process of getting rid of the CO2 was quickly applied. Big metal tubes were run through a crate by the basement and forcefully released the air outside the building to get rid of anything that could be considered hazardous. Mr. Butwell said that “it was a learning lesson” when talking about the design of the building, and was happy that no one got hurt.
It’s always scary not knowing what to expect, and it’s even tougher when those in charge don’t have quite enough answers to give. That is exactly what students and security alike were faced with, when neither one were allowed inside the building, and even the firefighters didn’t know the extent of the situation aside from the problem being carbon monoxide. One student even updated Snapchat saying “this better not be a drill” and as it turns out, he was unfortunately right. When a fire alarm goes off, most of the time you do assume it’s a drill, but CO2 is certainly not the first thing that comes to mind. When Marist Security wasn’t even allowed in the building, and was forced to relay the same information of “a carbon monoxide problem that could take one to four hours”, many students weren’t sure what to do. Many of them were passing time by “hanging out in the cafeteria” or in one case “wasting money at job lots.” But it seemed all were without their notebooks for class, and in some cases, without a wallet, jacket, and other necessities that one may need while waiting for a few hours.
Although Halloween is supposed to be filled with games or pranks, this was certainly none of the above, and it certainly wasn’t treated as such. The root of the problem and it’s solution were handled relatively quickly and sufficiently. “At least we know our alarms work!” said Chanel, the Building A Resident Director.