Campus News

Carbon monoxide leak evacuates Richmond



Updated February 22, 2013

Updated February 20, 2013

Published February 18, 2013

A carbon monoxide leak caused by an improperly ventilating boiler led to the evacuation of the Richmond Quadrangle residence hall in the Ellicott Complex on Feb. 17.

Two students drove themselves to a local urgent-care facility and two others were taken to a hospital by ambulance. Three other students were evaluated by an ambulance crew and did not require hospital treatment. The affected students have recovered and returned to classes.

The incident began around 8:30 p.m. when UB Police were notified of a possible carbon monoxide leak by medical personnel treating the two students who drove themselves to the urgent-care facility. Police evacuated the building and summoned firefighters. UB issued an alert message advising members of the campus community to avoid the area. Students who live in Richmond went to other campus buildings. After inspections by National Fuel Gas and firefighters determined that all carbon monoxide was gone, students were given the all-clear to re-enter the residence hall at 11:15 p.m.

The source of the carbon monoxide leak was improper ventilation from a gas-fired boiler. UB’s Department of Environment Health & Safety conducted a follow-up inspection and found no carbon monoxide. The university is continuing to investigate and monitor the area.

Carbon dioxide detectors have been added in Richmond and more will be added throughout the Ellicott Complex in weeks to come.

All 17 boilers in the Ellicott Complex have been reviewed and no problems were found. Maintenance of the other boiler exhausts is being performed, as well as a fitting replacement and some duct resealing. As a precaution, carbon monoxide readings in other boiler rooms in Ellicott have been performed and found to be normal.

UB will be installing combined smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in Ellicott as soon as the optimum locations are determined. Once the work is completed, the detectors also will be installed in the Governors Complex and in the South Campus residence halls.

UB also plans to theatrically smoke the mechanical room in Richmond over spring break to help determine the pathway of carbon monoxide to the upper floors and seal off the pathway.

UB has been and continues to be in full compliance with the requirements of the state fire code (Amanda’s Law). This law requires that detectors be installed in sleeping areas on the same floor/level of the building where the source of combustion is located.

Since the leak in Richmond, the university has gone above and beyond the requirements of the code by adding more detectors. UB is taking these actions because student safety is the university's top priority.

  • In Richmond, the university has replaced the missing plug-in models in the residence rooms on the first floor with wall-mounted, battery-operated models. Detectors also have been installed in the corridors on the third, fourth and fifth floors.
  • Additional detetectors have been installed in other residence halls with natural-gas-fired boilers, a measure that exceeds the requirements of Amanda’s Law.
  • Staff from Environment, Health and Safety will conduct weekly inspections of the detectors that are located in common areas of residence halls to make sure they are present and working.
  • UB has launched a project that will put hard-wired carbon monoxide detectors in every residence hall.

UB recommends that all faculty, staff and students enroll to receive emergency alert messages via email and texting. To sign up, visit UB’s emergency information website.