Gas Leak Causes Closure, Evacuation of 16 Buildings

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On Dec. 19, a gas leak forced the evacuation and closure of 16 buildings on campus and on Donaghey Avenue between Bruce and Robins Streets.

The gas leak originated at the crosswalk at the intersection of Alumni Drive and Donaghey Avenue, where a maintenance contractor ruptured a natural gas line, Public Relations and Information Officer Michael Hopper said.

The Conway Fire Department was notified of the gas leak at 8:47 a.m., said Battalion Chief Scot Erwin.

The fire department recommended building shutdowns, and UCA Physical Plant employees escorted firefighters around campus so they could ventilate buildings, Erwin said.

At 9:47 a.m. that day UCAPD notified students and faculty of the closures and cautioned them not to enter the buildings through email and text alerts.

Anyone outside the buildings during the gas leak was most likely unharmed.

“Air quality outside would have probably been better than what was inside the buildings [because of]the way the air moves through the buildings,” Hopper said.

Sixty-five students are on campus during winter break, but only one person had to be evacuated, according to Department of Housing and Residence Life records.

On the morning of the gas leak, Marble Slab Creamery owner Chad Rockett had closed the creamery’s Shoppes at Donaghey location, instead focusing on the Salem Road location.

Rockett chose to keep the creamery’s Donaghey location closed because of the winter’s slouch in sales and to ensure the utmost safety, he said.

“It was an unfortunate event. However, safety is the number one issue,” Rockett said. “I called the police department, and Donaghey Hall didn’t need to be evacuated. But with the street blocked off, it was best to just keep the store shut.”

Centerpoint Energy fixed the leak, capped it off and installed a new section of line, Hopper said.

Fire department and physical plant personnel completed air quality tests, and when the air met normal quality standards, the fire department gave the all clear at 1:04 p.m.

Two hours later at 3:07 p.m. UCAPD issued email and text alerts stating that the campus was safe.

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