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Residents of Lauder College House were evacuated around 3p.m. on Friday due to a sprinkler being set off on the 7th floor of the building. Credit: Adelaide Lyall

An activated sprinkler in Lauder College House on Friday afternoon led to a building-wide evacuation and flooding in 13 suites, prompting the relocation of 12 students to the Sheraton Philadelphia University City Hotel.

The sprinklers went off at approximately 3:15 p.m. on Lauder's seventh floor. This is the second time in two weeks that flooding caused by sprinklers led to an evacuation and the relocation of students from their dorms to the Sheraton — the first of which happened in Harnwell College House on Oct. 20.

Director of Communications and External Relations for Penn Business Services Barbara Lea-Kruger wrote in an email to The Daily Pennsylvanian that there was nothing mechanically wrong with the sprinklers in the rooms where flooding occurred in Lauder or in Harnwell. She added that Facilities & Real Estate Services plans to communicate to students how they can avoid damaging the sprinklers going forward.

Paul Forchielli, the residential service administrator at FRES, sent emails to students in suites affected by water damage to offer them rooms at the Sheraton while the damage is assessed and fixed. In the email, Forchielli informed affected students that University staff and staff from the restoration company Belfor would be in and out of rooms on the first seven floors to assess the scope of the damage and complete repairs.

Any residents who did not receive an offer to relocate but believe that they were impacted by the flooding should contact their information center manager, Lea-Kruger wrote.

After the flooding, cleaning teams set up drying equipment and removed floor trimmings that could have been damaged to prevent the formation of mold. Students said that staff have entered their suites at different times of the day, without much warning.

“It’s been really disruptive to have the cleaning crew come in unannounced,” said Nursing sophomore Sonia Feil, who lives in a six-person suite on the seventh floor of Lauder.

Feil, who writes for Under the Button, said that her living room and two bedrooms flooded and some of the floor trimmings in the unit were ripped out. Her room has a total of nine fans that make her living conditions noisy and cold, she said.

Although Penn offered all residents of the suite to move to the Sheraton, Feil’s suitemate, Engineering sophomore Dorine Izere, was the only one who opted to move after a loud night due to the fans that resulted in a headache. She said the transition to the hotel room went well and everything was set up once she arrived.

Both Izere and Feil said they felt anxious about the situation and its impact on their ability to complete their schoolwork. Izere had to turn in an assignment late on Friday because she had to make sure her things were not damaged, and Feil had to complete an online midterm due on Monday outside of her dorm to make sure no unannounced people interrupted her during the exam. 

“The most frustrating thing has been the lack of communication,” Feil said, regarding the work schedule of the cleaning crews. “I wish we had a timeline where we could see when people are coming in.”