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Facilities' teamwork saves university time and money during water main break

August 2, 2017

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Thanks to the facilities response team, an Oct. 30 accident in Wallace Hall that could have resulted in weeks of restoration took only five days to repair.

When a break in a 14-inch fire main flooded a section of Wallace Hall on Oct. 30, 2016, the resulting damage could have shut down at least part of the building for weeks.

But thanks to the work and resourcefulness of the Facilities Department response team, repairs were completed in just 120 hours, reducing inconvenience and costs.

 The team, including James Anderson, Harley Ashe, Jimmy Doss, Joe Dowdy, Mike Duncan, Shawn Greever, Bruce Lytton, Michael Moore, Jason Pearman, Scott Phillips, Bobby Polly, Tim Scheppard, Dana Smith, Chris Stevers, Bobby Viers, and Brock Whitlock, was nominated to represent the university in the statewide Governor’s Award program in the teamwork award category. The winners were announced in May.

Members of the team went above and beyond their normal assigned duties on Oct. 30 when they were notified about the flood in Wallace Hall, which houses several administrative offices and classrooms, as well as Adult Day Services and the Child Development Center for Learning and Research.

The team assembled and within four hours of the first notification, they had safely shut down the power, pumped out the water, and secured the area so the damage assessment could begin.

The flood was caused by a break in a 14-inch fire main in a mechanical room in the southeast corner of Wallace Hall and had flooded the entire room from floor to ceiling. The team found that the main 480-volt panel that served half of Wallace Hall was destroyed, the chiller that runs the air conditioning for the building was disabled, and many important pumps and small electrical components were ruined.

Despite the damage and electrical hazards, the response team was able to get in and safely secure the area. After part of Wallace Hall had to be shut down for safety reasons, the team also helped to secure alternate space for classes scheduled to meet in the affected area.

By Monday morning, Oct. 31, the response team completed triage of the damaged area. They found that several objects could not be repaired and needed to be replaced, including the main electrical panel, several chilled water pumps, the air compressor, an electrical transformer, and the chiller control panel.

Even though many of the parts that needed replacing are not typically found “off the shelf," the response team worked with local vendors to locate suitable replacements for these parts. When a main panel replacement was found in Charlotte, North Carolina, a facilities team was dispatched to pick it up. As soon as it arrived, the response team began immediate installation, and power was restored within 48 hours of the initial incident.

Thanks to the efforts of the response team, critical facilities in Wallace Hall, including operations for three faculty colleges, numerous classrooms and labs, the Child Development Center for Learning and Research, and the Adult Day Service were returned to normal in record time.

“The superior teamwork and outstanding technical expertise of the response team was exhibited through their resourcefulness, dedication, and motivation,” said Chris Kiwus, associate vice president and chief facilities officer. “All the repairs were completed safely, despite the electrical and other hazards present in the damaged mechanical room.”

Written by Mackenzie Nicely 

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