Workers fixed a ruptured gas line in Building 16 that forced hundreds of students and faculty to evacuate the building on Jan. 10 for five hours.
“About 9:15 a.m. or so we started smelling a strong odor of gas in the old part of the science building,” lab coordinator Barbara Dumbleton said.
The leak came from an old broken pipe in the building’s basement, near Room 148.
“I called Public Safety and they came over. They assessed the situation and decided to evacuate the building. The gas smell was pretty strong down the east hallway, which is the old part of the building,” Science Dean Sara Ulrich said.
Emergency personnel from Goshen Rural Fire Protection District and Northwest Natural Gas were contacted to assess the situation.
“What happen(ed) is, an abandoned natural-gas line that was capped off a few years ago, for some reason, failed without warning,” Mark Richardson, the facilities planner leading the repairs, wrote in an email. “It was located under a counter in a lab area of Building 16.”
Ulrich estimates 500 students were evacuated into the rain.
“Some students figured out pretty quickly that ‘maybe I should take my stuff. This is a big deal.’ and other students did exactly what you are supposed to do, which is don’t take your stuff — just leave. So they were the students that were out there without coats, without their cell phones, without their wallets and their car keys,” Ulrich said.
“We initially assumed someone had just pulled the alarm, but when we were out there for a longer period of time, and the Goshen fire truck appeared, we realized that wasn’t the case,” Math Dean Kathie Hledik wrote in an email.
Building 16 is shared by the math and science divisions. According to both deans, the Math Division did not know the details of the situation until after the evacuation.
After 11 a.m., students and faculty were escorted back into the building to recover their belongings.
The building was reopened at 2 p.m. The smell of gas still lingered on the first floor, and Room 148 remained closed.
Repairs were performed over the weekend and the classroom was open again on Jan. 13. Richardson said Lane Facilities Management and Planning is systematically checking rooms in Building 16 to make sure there are no more at-risk gas lines. If they discover any, all maintenance will be performed after hours and should not impact students or faculty.
“It’s really a good thing that it happened on a school day and not over the weekend, because we could have had a situation where the building filled with gas, nobody was here and somebody could have come in Monday morning when we had a much more explosive potential,” Ulrich said. “It just takes a spark.”