Student sets off sprinkler in dorm, causing evacuation and water damage

Little Building residents were evacuated Thursday morning after a student triggered the sprinkler in his room on the fourth floor while he was moving a structure for a production set.

Sophomore Kevin Barbagallo said he accidentally set off the sprinkler when he hit it with a piece of cardboard, which he was using for a set piece for the Emerson production of Brooklyn

“It was an act of God. It was terrifying,” said the visual and media arts major.

According to an email to students from Bob Smith, chief of the Emerson College Police Department, the Office of Housing and Resident Life is assisting the students whose rooms were affected, and the Boston Fire Department cleared the building after assessing the incident.

According to David Haden, associate dean and director of housing and residence life, Barbagallo’s suite, as well as the suites below and next to his, experienced water damage. He said Little Building maintenance staff responded to all of the affected suites.

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“The Facilities Management and Emerson College police department staffs responded quickly to shut off the sprinkler system before the water could spread further,” Haden said in an email to the Beacon.

Students in Barbagallo’s suite have been temporarily relocated during repairs, and should be able to should return to their suite by Friday night, Haden said.

After the incident, Barbagallo said he filled five washers in the Little Building and ran additional clothes in a laundry cart to be dry-cleaned, while he was still drenched.

“I still don’t know what can be salvaged,” he said. “All of my stuff is scattered in three suites in Piano Row.”

Brian Dratch, a sophomore marketing communication major, said he was in the third floor suite when the incident occurred. He said most of the damage was near his windows.

“As the alarm went off I thought it was raining outside. It was leaking in the windows,” said Dratch. “They were very quick to respond and fix it the best they can.”

Dratch said he was told the maintenance staff will shampoo his carpets, and replace ceiling tiles and window shades.

“I’m just worried about my mattress. They told me to make a list [of what was damaged],” said Polly Hilton, a sophomore theatre studies major and Dratch’s suitemate.

Hilton said her main concern is the color of the substance ejected from the sprinkler.

“It’s foamy black. That’s why I’m concerned, because it’s just not water,” she said.

Alex Janny, a freshman visual and media arts major, said she saw the same dark liquid when she was evacuating her room on the fourth floor.

“One kid comes out completely covered in black water,” Janny said. “It’s a funny thing, but it was just kind of odd.”

Janny also said she was confused as to why Barbagallo set off the sprinklers by touching it.

“It’s funny because we always fiddle with the sprinklers in our room, like hang stuff on them,” Janny said.

Haden said these are not good practices.

“Sprinkler systems are sensitive which is why we warn students not to make contact with a sprinkler head or hang items from a sprinkler head.” Haden said. “This situation is an unfortunate reminder that all of us need to exercise caution when moving items within close proximity of a sprinkler head.”

However, Barbagallo said he maintains a good attitude about what happened in his suite.

“My suitemates joke about it,” he said, “and call it hurricane 425.”

 
 
Correction: An earlier version of this article stated Barbagallo was building a production set in his suite. He was only moving materials, which casued the sprinkler to go off. 
The article also previously stated that three sprinklers were triggered. One sprinkler went off, and three dorm rooms in the building were damaged.