Archive for Tuesday, August 28, 2007

KU officials worry about safety of old buildings’ electrical wiring

August 28, 2007


Old wiring an issue in KU student housing

The number of student housing fires nationwide has increased sharply since 1998. Enlarge video

Kansas University senior Marcela Telles, Brazil, left, socializes with junior Kate Mallula, Roeland Park, on Monday in the living room of Watkins scholarship hall. Watkins is one of several buildings on the KU campus that are scheduled to receive electrical wiring updates.

Kansas University senior Marcela Telles, Brazil, left, socializes with junior Kate Mallula, Roeland Park, on Monday in the living room of Watkins scholarship hall. Watkins is one of several buildings on the KU campus that are scheduled to receive electrical wiring updates.

Safety at Home

Kansas University's electrical life safety supervisor, Doug Carter, offered these tips to avoid electrical fires:

  • Don't string cords underneath a rug, mattress or anything else, as it creates friction and produces extra heat.
  • Check to be sure cords aren't frayed or worn.
  • If you must use an extension cord, use one with 14 gauge wire or greater.
  • Don't plug extension cords or power strips into other extension cords or power strips.
  • If an outlet feels loose, it should be replaced.
  • Outlets along kitchen counters and in bathrooms require a ground-fault circuit interrupter.

Students plugging appliances into old electrical wiring makes eight dormitories and scholarship halls at Kansas University potential fire hazards.

"Years ago, people didn't have microwaves, hair dryers, curling irons and a lot of the things they have now," said Vincent Avila, associate housing director. "These circuits aren't meant to hold the big load of these appliances."

For several years, the university has been updating wiring in older buildings.

And anytime a building is renovated - such as residence halls on Daisy Hill - its electrical system is replaced.

"It's mainly replacing old, outdated wiring they installed many years ago when the buildings were built and bringing them up to current electrical codes," Avila said.

This summer, the department rewired the 50-student Sellards scholarship hall, at a cost of nearly $20,000. Each summer, another hall gets new wiring.

"Usually, the funds are available for something like that because that's a safety issue, so we take that real seriously," Avila said.

Doug Carter, KU electrical life safety supervisor, said wiring in Sellards hall, which was built almost 50 years ago, originally was designed to withstand one or two lamps per room - not the plethora of electronics students use today.

"We've been able to add circuits, which means less of a load in each room," Carter said.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, the trend of more and more electronics in student housing has contributed to an increase in campus fires nationwide. An NFPA report shows fires in dormitories, fraternities, sororities and other housing are up from 1,800 in 1998 to 3,300 in 2005.

"The wires get hot and if it gets hot enough, you start melting the insulation around the wires and, naturally, when you melt something, you can start a fire. ... A lot of fires do start from electrical," Avila said.

Avila said KU has been fortunate to not have any major electrical fires. And officials would like it to stay that way.

These older buildings still are slated for wiring updates, which are performed at a rate of one each summer: Grace Pearson, Pearson, Miller and Watkins scholarship halls; Oliver, Gertrude Sellards Pearson-Corbin and McCollum Halls; and Jayhawker Towers.

In the meantime, KU officials advise students living in buildings with old wiring to plug in minimal electronics at the same time, and to follow other guidelines set by the Department of Student Housing.


OldEnuf2BYurDad 10 years, 9 months ago

I wonder if they still "buzz" girls in Watkins like they used to. My old girlfriend's buzz was dot-dash-dash-dash.

Janet Lowther 10 years, 9 months ago

Do they still make cords which fray? I haven't seen a new fabric covered cord in at least twenty or thirty years. For that matter I'm mot sure I've ever seen a brand new one. . .

tolawdjk 10 years, 9 months ago

I've read the article four times.

I fail to see where it says they don't have the money to do this.

acquarius 10 years, 9 months ago

Once again a problem that everyone is aware of and are discussing taking care of but we will wait to take it as a major problem until there is a tradegy involving death I would think that this should be THE major for our children I am sure there are plenty of KU alumni that would make sure this is taken care of Oh that's right our community needs a new library??

KUtownie 10 years, 9 months ago

In reference to whether or not we still buzz in the scholarship halls...we do. At least the girls halls do.

Tony Kisner 10 years, 9 months ago

So worried they decided to build a new palace for the football team instead of fixing the dorms.

tolawdjk 10 years, 9 months ago

Again, what waiting?

As funds are available, it is done. As buildings are remodeled, it is done.

Holy crap people, this city and university ahve enough problems as it is without you people creating more out of thin air.

Problem: Some of the older buildings have not had their wiring updated to handle current demands.

Solution: Update and fix new wiring.

Action Item: Buildings are updated on schedule and when new remodels allow for wholesale changes. Money doesn't appear to be an issue because this is a safety concern and therefore gets priority funding from available funds.

There you go, in a nutshell that is what the story says. No kids being electricuted. No buildings burning to the ground because of faulty wiring. No Provost going to the legislature saying the students are living in death traps if we don't get a bazillion dollars tomorrow. Maintenance is needed, maintenance is budgeted for, updates are completed. Its the way the system is -supposed- to work.

kneejerkreaction 10 years, 9 months ago

Please KU, PLEAASSSEEEE, if anything happens in these building, just make SURE that Marcela Telles is ok!!!!!!!!!....(that little Brazilian cutie).....

GSWtotheheart 10 years, 9 months ago

The money for the football facility was earmarked for that purpose by the donors. If you don't like it, donate enough money to revamp one of the dorms and you can have your name on it!

Jayhawktriplegrad 10 years, 9 months ago

The state "repair" funds used in the Allen Fieldhouse roof repair could have re-wired at least one more hall. I think Lew could have found the roof money elsewhere. Perhaps in his wallet.

kneejerkreaction 10 years, 9 months ago

Maybe if Hemenway spent less time trying to schmooze old people in order to get their will redirected in the name of KU Endowment, he'd have a chance to concentrate on this issue.

MyName 10 years, 9 months ago

Gawd the issue is being looked at! The problem is that you can't just shut down all of the residence halls and redo the electrical system for all of the buildings at the same time. People actually need to live in them you know, and replacing the wiring in an old building is not something you can do in a weekend! On top of that, it would cost way more to do them all at once than if you fix a few buildings a year.

shockchalk 10 years, 9 months ago

consumer1..."what do these crafts people actually do?" Well, the KU electricians replaced all of the old wiring in the building this article is referring to. It was paid for by Departmental funds and nobody begged the taxpayers to fund it. Maybe you should get the facts straight before you start blaming and accusing.

Yes, the University has installed lightning protection on all of it's buildinga. It was about 10 years ago and is continued when new buildings are built.

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