Our (Still Slightly Soggy) Campus Heroes

A Timely Response to a Wurster Hall Flood Keeps College Activities Up, Running and Mostly Dry

by Fran Marsh

Quick and coordinated action by Physical Plant-Campus Services personnel spared a rapidly flooding Wurster Hall worse damage recently, when maintenance and custodial crews stepped in to repair and clean up damage from a broken water main.

A "near disaster (was) averted by...the heroic efforts of front line staff from Physical Plant-Campus Services," Dean Roger Montgomery of the College of Environmental Design said of the incident.

About 5 p.m. Feb. 10, a break in an 8 inch pressurized water main uphill from Wurster poured water into the lower levels of the building, flooding classrooms and labs, imperiling electrical and elevator equipment, and threatening library collections and preparations for an exhibit celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Architecture Department.

"We had a couple of inches of water in the bound periodicals stacks," said Librarian Elizabeth Byrne.

"But between turning off the water quickly enough and good custodial crews, we came out of it quite OK."

To stop the flood, plumber Frank Phillips, an expert on the layout of campus utilities lines, had to first locate a shutoff valve under a surging torrent of muddy water, then isolate the break.

Moments earlier, Maintenance Evening Supervisor Ed Sicard had received the emergency call and dispatched electricians to locate and monitor transformers and other electrical equipment, elevator technicians, a roofer, and others.

Meanwhile, led by Supervisor Jude DeBose, scores of custodians had also arrived to aid in a massive cleanup.

As efforts moved forward, Associate Director Peter Lin updated Environmental Design staff on the progress.

To Physical Plant-Campus Services Director Johnny Torrez, the water main which broke is almost like an old acquaintance.

On the deferred maintenance list for several years, the old pipeline is finally giving way to corrosion, nearby new construction and the weight of heavy equipment rolling over it.

A week later, the same line failed near the Women's Faculty Club.

Torrez credits the quick and comprehensive response to this emergency with saving valuable equipment and instructional materials from being destroyed or damaged by water.

If the water had reached a high-voltage transformer (it came within inches) or elevator equipment, the loss could have exceeded $100,000 and idled an entire college for three to six days, Torrez explained.

"The fact that we were able to marshal electricians, roofers, laborers, plumbers, elevator technicians, and custodial staff to an event like this within minutes is a tribute to the value of the coordinated, comprehensive services Physical Plant renders to the campus," he said.

Wrote Dean Montgomery to Torrez afterwards: "Every one of you was responsible for putting us back together speedily and in good condition.

"Saturday morning anyone who was not on the scene Friday evening would not have known that the first floor was ankle deep in muddy water. We were able to carry on with most of the weekend's planned events."


Copyright 1995, The Regents of the University of California.
Produced and maintained by the Office of Public Affairs at UC Berkeley.
Comments? E-mail berkeleyan@pa.urel.berkeley.edu.