Archive for Tuesday, November 16, 1999

RESIDENCE HALL EVACUATED BECAUSE OF SMOKING BATTERY

November 16, 1999

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Toxic fumes from an adjoining building caused Kansas University officials to evacuate Ellsworth Residence Hall for about two and a half hours as a precautionary measure Monday.

An overheated lead acid battery in the Networking and Telecommunications Services department in the basement of the Ellsworth Annex released fumes, resulting in the evacuation of the nearby residence hall, said Lynn Bretz, acting director of KU's University Relations.

Ellsworth Annex and Ellsworth Residence Hall are connected by a hallway.

The battery, one of about 40, is used for an uninterruptable power supply for network and telecommunications equipment.

"Basically, it's a back-up to a back-up for the phone switching," said Todd Cohen of University Relations.

Apparently the battery overcharged, causing the casing to split and acid to spill into a containment pan, Bretz said.

The release of acid created heavy, acrid fumes.

A hazardous materials team from the Lawrence-Douglas County Fire & Medical agency arrived about 8:30 a.m. at the hall, Bretz said. A representative of Lucent Technologies, the equipment vendor, also was there.

Emergency workers entered the building and identified the source of the fumes. They were unable to stay in the building because the fumes were too acrid, Bretz said.

The building then was ventilated.

Sgt. Troy Mailen of the KU Police Department said that at no time were Ellsworth residents in immediate danger; the evacuation was merely a precautionary measure, he said.

"I'm told students were allowed back in by 11 a.m.," Bretz said.

Rerouting power in Ellsworth Annex required power to be cut to the campus voice mail system, which meant messages could not be accessed for about 45 minutes in the morning, Bretz said.

No injuries were reported, Bretz said. Ellsworth Hall houses about 450 students.

-- Erwin Seba's phone message number is 832-7145. His e-mail address is eseba@ljworld.com.

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