Alerts issued as gas leaks occur around construction
By Jasmine Simmons
Caution tape surrounded the perimeter of the construction site as the foul odor of gas tainted the air.
Police stood nearby, and students walking by wondered what the cause of the commotion was.
During the first weeks of the semester, Aug. 4, Aug. 23 and Sept. 4, some dorms and campus buildings had to be temporarily evacuated due to breakage in underground gas pipes.
“Construction is the cause of the gas leaks,” Chief of Police Gary Sargent said. “A lot of it has been hitting abandoned gas lines. They are abandoned, but they tie back into the main line.”
The leaks occurred outdoors at construction sites on the south side of Beall Hall and along King Street where the areas underwent in-ground work.
Residents received notification about the leaks through text messages.
“We ask that students pay attention to the alerts that are sent by campus police,” Associate Dean and Director of Resident Life Donna Plank said, “and follow the instructions they are given in those alerts and follow the instructions given to them by staff members.”
Students should update personal information in the university’s system so they can receive messages in case of emergencies.
Junior math major and Beall resident assistant Lacy Hill experienced the importance of having updated information in the system firsthand during the gas leak at Beall.
Hill returned to the dorm after class and let herself in through the back door.
“After I grabbed what I needed for work, I left through the front doors, which are usually unlocked 24/7,” Hill said. “As I was leaving, I noticed they were locked and the scan card machine light was red. I had just switched phone providers, so my number changed, and I didn’t get the text notification that was sent campus wide.”
Hill contacted her resident director, Christan Hammonds, who informed her about the gas leak.
“I knew that the gas wasn’t poisonous,” Hill said. “It was still scary knowing that if somehow there was a fire, I could have been blown up in the building.”
Potential explosion and nausea from gas fumes are the two main reasons why buildings are evacuated in the event of a gas leak.
Students should report any cases where they can smell natural gas in the atmosphere.
“If a student is asked to ‘shelter in place’ by going into their room or apartment and staying there with the windows closed, or evacuate a space quickly, the most important thing is for students is to follow those instructions quickly,” Plank said.
With ongoing construction around campus, fire safety is vital for those living in residence housing.
National Fire Prevention Week is Oct. 7-13. This week honors the memory of the more than 250 people who lost their lives in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.
It left 100,000 people homeless and burned more than 2,000 acres of land.
Of late, no more leaks have caused commotion within residence halls and campus buildings.
However, students must remain attentive as construction continues.
“There is always potential for more leaks,” Sargent said. “Most construction projects that are doing in-ground work are coming to a conclusion on campus and will resume around Christmas break; then most students will be gone.”