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Nature always bats last, at least according to the adage. Unfortunately, maintenance and engineering managers in many institutional and commercial facilities found out the hard way in late December that the adage is true. Despite managers’ best efforts to harden their facilities in the event of an emergency – whether it’s a fire, flood, hurricane or blizzard – nature in fact does have the final say.
In the face of frigid winds and temperatures and wind chills that fell below zero, pipes and plumbing systems from coast to coast froze, sprang leaks, damaged facilities and shut down operations. Here is a sampling of such emergencies:
In Colorado, 10 buildings on the University of Colorado Boulder campus were impacted by a power interruption, causing widespread damage that included flooding from burst pipes. The interruption caused one of the university’s main boilers to trip and go offline, resulting in a loss of steam pressure for two hours, freezing pipes and coils.
In New York, Rochester firefighters were called to the University of Rochester Medical Center after a large water pipe burst at the Clinical Research Center. Fire officials say it involved a 4-inch standpipe that burst, causing water to flow on the fifth floor and extensive water damage on all five floors of that building.
In Texas, large water leaks were reported at different locations on Texas A&M property in College Station, likely the result of pipes that burst during the cold snap. The first leak was found at The Gardens Apartments. Shortly after that, a significant leak was discovered at the top of the West Campus parking garage.
In Alabama, sub-freezing temperatures wreaked havoc on pipes at houses across Alabama, including the statehouse. Flooding happened in parts of the first and second floors, as well as the basement of the massive building. Initially reported as burst water pipes, the issue was actually pipes from the building’s heating unit coil that ruptured.
In Kentucky, the Children’s Home of Northern Kentucky/CHNK Behavioral Health suffered serious property damage in the historic administration building at the main campus due to a ruptured water pipe. The pipe ruptured as a result of record-setting subzero windchills and blizzard-condition winds approaching 50 mph. The ruptured pipe located in a restroom on the top floor of CHNK’s operational headquarters caused flooding on all four floors of the building, which houses a wide spectrum of treatment and administrative spaces.
Dan Hounsell is senior editor of the facilities market. He has more than 25 years of experience writing about facilities maintenance, engineering and management.
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