Overheated heating, air conditioning unit causes chaos in Egan Hall

Staff Writer

Photo by Jordan Otero
Photo by Jordan Otero

Classes in Egan Hall were interrupted on Thursday due to smoke coming from the ground floor.

At about 11:57 a.m., fire alarms went off in the building after a motor powering a fan in the heating and air conditioning systems overheated and began to smoke.

Students and staff had to evacuate the building in order to allow the Physical Plant Department and Steubenville Fire Department to find the source of the smoke.

“Thanks to the fire alarm system, we knew exactly where the detector was that set off the alarm,” said Joe McGurn, director of Physical Plant. “So we knew the location and we didn’t have to hunt around the building looking for it.”

McGurn continued, “Our staff was there right away. We had it all powered down and everything before the fire trucks got there.”

Steubenville Fire Department was quick to respond to the call from campus security concerning the smoke. They came with five vehicles. One parked on the south side of the building, two parked in the inner parking lot, and two parked on the street by Assisi Heights.

“They were very helpful,” McGurn said of the fire department. “They had an infrared camera and were able to determine what the source of the smoke was and the heat of the motor.”

The firefighters walked around the building and checked classrooms and hallways, insuring that they were safe and clear before opening the building. Most of the students in class waited outside of the building.

Senior Nick Bell said, “We went down the main staircase and we could smell the smoke on first floor. We waited around, then all the sudden it started raining really hard. I went to the J.C. It didn’t make sense to stand in the rain and wait for classes to start again.”

Bell, a philosophy and theology major, was in aesthetics class with Dr. Crosby on the second floor when the alarm went off. Junior theology and catechetics major Theresa Stano was on the first floor in a youth ministry class with professor Scott Sollom.

“The alarm went off and we all jumped, but stayed in our seats,” said Stano. “We didn’t know what to do, whether to leave or not. Professor Sollom dismissed class. I went to the J.C and it was pretty crowded. A lot of people had to wait outside of Egan to go back and get their stuff.”

Students piled into the J.C. Williams Center to avoid the heavy rain. Others went into the library and surrounding buildings to avoid getting wet.

“We got a call from a student saying that there was something going on in Egan,” said senior Clare Fleming, who was working at Switchboard when Egan was evacuated. “Next thing I know, there were a ton of students coming into the J.C., soaking wet without any books or bags.”

Several professors dismissed class when the alarm rang, others expected class to continue and instructed students to leave their belongings behind. They were able to return to collect their belongings after the fire department deemed the building safe to enter.

The campus emergency system sent texts and emails to students and faculty at approximately 12:42 p.m. reading, “Egan Hall is reopened. Classes and meetings scheduled in Egan will proceed as scheduled.”

Photo by Jordan Otero
Photo by Jordan Otero

Damage was very minimal. Only the motor of the fan in the silver ducts in the ceiling will need to be replaced. According to McGurn, replacing the motor won’t cause any “discomfort” to the students and faculty.

Physical Plant checks the motors on a routine basis, said McGurn. “Every once in a while, something will go bad, and we can pre-determine that. It can happen, but rarely to this extent.”

McGurn was pleased with how everyone responded to the events. “All systems worked as they intended to,” he said. “The fire alarm system caught it and we got everybody out. Not even a fire extinguisher was used.”


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