Approximately 1,500 gallons of water poured into a room on the eighth floor of Vaughn Center Saturday after a student set off a sprinkler, unleashing about one bathtub of water every 9 seconds.
After the approximately six-minute deluge, about 20 residents were relocated temporarily and four permanently, said Krystal Schofield, director of Residence Life.
Matt Hosford was removing a clothes hanger from a sprinkler head in room 806A when he broke the glass mechanism that triggered the torrent. Both that room and 806B were deemed uninhabitable for the rest of the semester and part of the summer.
All four residents have been permanently relocated.
“I was hanging a shirt to dry,” said Hosford, a junior. “I’ve hung stuff up there seven or eight times before, and nothing had ever happened.”
Hosford said that when he took his shirt down, water started “pouring out like crazy.” He tried to collect as many of his valuables as he could before running to his RA.
Later Sunday, his roommate tried to get back up to the room but was stopped before he got all the way down the hall. The roommate said the hallway was ankle-deep in water.
The water from the sprinkler caused substantial damage. The furniture and dry wall will have to be replaced, said Schofield. There was water damage all the way down to the first floor of the Vaughn Center, where the dining services was shut down for a while because of a leak in the Caf.
The students in the rooms below 806 were relocated, and many of the Student organization offices were damaged, including ResLife, PEACE, Student Productions, The Minaret, and the organizational suite.
“Contractors and facilities staff are still working in the Vaughn Center drying out rooms,” said Nora Bugg, assistant director of ResLife, Tuesday. “Contractors will be making major repairs for several months to at least two rooms on the eight floor.” ResLife could not yet estimate the cost of the damages.
Bugg thanked the Tampa Fire rescue for their quick response. She also thanked campus security and facilities for stopping the water flow and beginning the cleanup and repair process quickly. She praised the Vaughn RA staff for responding and hosting free laundry and pizza on Sunday afternoon.
“I would also like to thank the students for being flexible and understanding during this time as approximately 20 students have been temporarily relocated this week,” she said.
Under Article 11 of the Student Right and Responsibilities, “The unauthorized or improper handling of or tampering with any fire, safety, or emergency equipment or fixtures is prohibited.” The article also states: “Negligence and carelessness in matters of fire safety are considered to be chargeable offenses.”
As of Tuesday, Hosford said that no one had talked to him about possible consequences for what happened. Since the accident, he has been relocated to a room in Urso Hall.
“I think its common sense not to touch the sprinklers,” said Steven McGhan, a resident on the Vaughn floor where the incident took place. His roommate, Scott Wellington agreed.
Another student who lived on the third floor thought differently, and said that she thought the sprinklers were stable enough that a hanger would not set them off. “I had no idea that there was glass on the sprinklers,” said Bethany Diggett. “We weren’t told not to touch them.”
Hosford said that he regretted what had happened.
“I’m sorry to all the people who had to move out and lost stuff. I didn’t mean for any of that to happen. I hope nobody is mad at me.”