Pipe bursts in Union before admissions event

Rozlyn Paradis, Staff Writer

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On Feb. 10, at 12:27 p.m. the fire alarm went off in Dahl Centennial Union due to a pipe bursting in the Welcome Desk area.

“I was in the [cafeteria] eating lunch when the fire alarms went off,” Susie Wold (‘20) said. “I thought something had burned that set off the alarm so we were ushered outside.”

Despite numerous rumors across campus about what happened in the Union that day, Assistant Director of Facilities Ivan Hackman said, “I can assure you there was no fire.”

Welcome Center and Information Operator Judy Schnitzler was working at the desk when the incident occurred.

“I just heard this really loud noise and I looked up and just saw water pouring out [of the pipes],” Schnitzler said. “It just kept coming and coming. It was just like a waterfall!”

According to the Director of Facilities Jay Uthoff, the piece that connects two water supply pipes in the fire suppression system —also known as the sprinkler system— that supplies the Union broke that afternoon.

The flow of water through the fire suppression system automatically activates a signal to the fire alarm control panel, sounding the alarms to evacuate the building. The alarm sounded just 15 minutes before the Scholar’s Recognition lunch for prospective students was about to take place in Peace Dining Room.

“My face went white —No! This is the worst timing ever,” Assistant Director of Admissions for Special Events Kristin Padilla said. “[But]it was actually great timing . . . We had gotten word we could go back in about two minutes before families were about to walk into the Union to go up for lunch.”

There were 110 prospective students attending Scholar’s Recognition Day an admissions recruiting event for high-achieving, accepted applicants. The prospective students, their families, current students, faculty, and staff attending the lunch totaled more than 400 people.

“It ended up being just fine and it was all cleaned up by the end of lunch,” Padilla said. “Our facilities team is like no other. We were so appreciative!.”

Supervisor of Admissions Campus Visits Deidre Duvel and Padilla are not concerned that the pipe bursting reflected poorly on Luther College for the prospective students. In fact, the Monday after the event eight students submitted their enrollment deposit despite the incident.

“If nothing else, this will be a great first-year memorable story to tell,” Duvel said.

The exact cause of why the pipe burst is unknown but under investigation. There are growing concerns of this happening elsewhere on campus.

“With piping systems in general, there is always a possibility of [pipe bursts] to happen elsewhere, but chances are low,” Uthoff said.

When asked what steps were being taken to fix the issues, Uthoff said, “The sprinkler line was capped this weekend and the suppression system was re-charged with water.”

The water damage done to the walls near the burst water pipe is being evaluated by Luther College’s insurance representative. Uthoff estimates the cost of repair to be in the thousands.

“We appreciate that those in the Union respected the sounding of the fire alarm and exited the building in a timely fashion,” Uthoff said. “The safety of our students, guests, faculty, and staff is the most important factor in an event like this.”

Admissions was grateful for the quick response.

“The clean-up timing was just impeccable,” Duvel said. “The facilities team was on it, the security team was on it, I have never seen water being sucked up so fast.”

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