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COVID Cold Snap Strikes Student Center Sprinkler System

The COVID-19 cold snap has struck in many places, creating devastating driving conditions, harsh temperatures and bursting pipes. Oklahoma Christian University has recently experienced the latter.

On Monday night, Feb. 15, a pipe burst and caused many to lose water for almost an hour as they worked to repair it.
Another incident occurred around noon on Tuesday, Feb. 16 in the Student Center. The Student Center is one of the primary places students gather. Next to the cafeteria, it contains pool tables and a few TVs.

Derrick Shoemocker (name spell-check needed), a sophomore elementary education major, was having lunch in the cafeteria as it began.

“The fire alarm goes off and it’s saying, ‘there’s a fire, get out of the building,’” Shoemocker said. “Then someone comes in and says, ‘it’s fine, just our sprinkler system went off.’”

Shoemocker went to see things for himself, wondering if his friends were there.

“While I’m looking over there, the whole section of it just floods. That part of the roof just caves in and water just comes pouring out. Water smelled awful,” Shoemocker said.

“The sprinkler systems just kept on pouring water for probably three to five minutes.”

Fortunately, the cold weather prevented many from being present at the time the incident occurred.

“I’m just glad no one else is soaking wet,” Shoemocker said. “It’d be hard to warm up in this weather.”

The cold has reached historic levels.

“Coldest (night) we’ve had in a long time. I guess they’re saying since 1890,” said Neil Arter, Dean of Students. “So, pretty cold night and we’re kind of seeing the results of it now midday the next day. Stuff is starting to freeze and show its weakness.”

The freezing temperature was the last but not the only domino leading up to this accident.

“Sprinklers have to run up in the attic and usually they’re running above the insulation which means they’re pretty vulnerable to something that cold,”

Arter said. “(We) try to keep the Student Center warmer to help keep that space warmer up there in the attic, but obviously that didn’t make it this time.”

Knowing the cause is crucial to preventing a repeat incident, but presently there are more pressing matters to address.

“Main thing is just to get the water out of the building right now. They’ve got the system shut off right now. Need to repair it really quick so we can get the fire system back up,” Arter said. “I’m sure the company that we use has got emergencies all over the city right now. So, whenever we can get in line for that.”

Admittedly, the situation is not all bad.

“This one’s kind of nice in a way, because it’s not in a residential area, and not even in someone’s office or a classroom,” Arter said.

Arter added to the positive take on things and gave praise to some unsung heroes.
“We’ve got some great people that we work with, great contractors,” Arter said. “They swoop in and save the day every time, they always do this.”

Arter mentioned two people by name.

“It’s really good to be working with people like Jerrod Dean,” Arter said. “He’s over there now cleaning up.”

Dean owns and manages the housekeeping company Oklahoma Christian works with.

“Another contractor we work with, Faulkner Water Removal, they’re out on campus today doing a good job,” Arter said. “It’s really nice to have good friends and it certainly comes into effect during this time.”

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