Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Buildings temporarily evacuated after gas line break Tuesday morning

Occupants of at least three U-M buildings on Central Campus were evacuated for more than an hour Tuesday after a construction contractor struck and broke a natural gas line while working on the Central Campus Transit Center project.

Learn more about the U-M Emergency Alert system and how to register for notification in the event of an emergency.

The accident prompted activation of the U-M Emergency Alert system, the first time the notification process has been used in an actual emergency, said Diane Brown, public information officer for the Department of Public Safety.

The accident occurred at 10:30 a.m. and the line break was sealed off by 11:50 a.m., Brown said.

Gas odors could be detected along North University and Geddes avenues between Fletcher and Church streets, forcing the evacuation of the C.C. Little Science Building, the Alexander G. Ruthven Museums Building and the School of Dentistry, Brown said.

“They left the buildings because they were smelling gas in their buildings,” she said, adding it appeared gas came into the buildings from outside through fresh-air-intake vents.

Brown said she knew of no injuries or reports of health problems associated with the incident.

The E-Alert system sends text messages, e-mails and recorded phone messages to people who have signed up to receive them. It was started in March 2008 as a way to efficiently notify the university community about emergencies. Test messages have been sent periodically since then.

The first message alerting people to the leak and urging them to evacuate if they smelled gas went out at 11:26 a.m. Tuesday. A message telling people the leak had been sealed and that it was OK to re-enter buildings was sent at 12:07 p.m., Brown said.

The leak occurred during work on the new Central Campus Transit Center along North University and Geddes between the C.C. Little and Ruthven buildings. The project includes larger bus shelters, bicycle lanes and racks, and a new water main under the street. It is expected to be completed by the fall.