Residents of Miami University’s Hillcrest Hall were cleared to return to their rooms at 10:42 a.m. on Nov. 19 after they were evacuated yesterday and required to spend the night in temporary housing due to a carbon monoxide leak.
According to an email from Miami’s Institutional Response Team, the source of the carbon monoxide leak was exhaust from a hot water heater used to heat shower and faucet water. A malfunction caused the exhaust to leak inside through small openings in the building.
The email said this malfunction has been repaired and there is no carbon monoxide remaining in the building.
Still, temporary carbon monoxide detectors have been installed in Hillcrest, and Miami is looking into ways to install them in all residence halls.
Vice President for Student Life Jayne Brownell wrote in a comment on the Miami University Parents and Family Facebook page last night that carbon monoxide monitors are not required to be present in Miami’s residence halls because they are heated by geothermal, hot water or steam, none of which pose risks for carbon monoxide leaks.
Brownell also wrote that carbon monoxide is produced through combustion from gas furnaces, which Hillcrest does not have.
At least one resident was taken to McCullough-Hyde Memorial Hospital yesterday for suspected carbon monoxide poisoning.
Jacob Maten, a first-year finance major living in Hillcrest, was taken to the hospital for suspected carbon monoxide poisoning, Maten’s father told The Miami Student. Maten had been experiencing flu-like symptoms for the past several days and was napping in his room when a firefighter entered and told him to leave immediately.
Maten’s father, Michael, drove four hours from his hometown in Michigan to visit his son in the hospital. He said he never envisioned being in this situation when he brought his son to Miami.
“It’s a scary situation, and it’s something no parent wants to hear,” Michael said. “I appreciate that they got to him so quickly because I was reading up on [carbon monoxide poisoning], and it kills something like 400 people a year.”
Director of News and Media Relations Jessica Rivinius said Hillcrest was first evacuated earlier yesterday afternoon when a resident reported that his personal carbon monoxide monitor had been activated, prompting OFD to investigate.
The Miami University Police Department (MUPD) and OFD also detected elevated levels of carbon monoxide in the building upon investigation.
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Emil Barr, a resident of Hillcrest who was in the building at the time of the leak, said the residence hall’s fire alarm went off at 1:55 p.m. yesterday, and the OFD began evacuating the building shortly after.
By around 2:10 p.m., Barr said nearly all Hillcrest residents were directed to either neighboring Beechwoods Hall or Western Dining Commons.
By 3:07 p.m., Hillcrest was cleared and secured by OFD, and the firefighters began working to ventilate the building, Rivinius said.
Rivinius said the carbon monoxide levels in the building were low, and that the overnight evacuation was done “out of an abundance of caution.”
This is a developing story that will be updated as information becomes available.