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  February 26, 2001

Timeframe Tightened for Sprinkler
Installation in Residence Halls

The Board of Trustees Thursday approved an aggressive construction schedule that will bring fully automated sprinkler systems into almost every UConn residence hall before classes begin in August 2003 - two years sooner than originally planned.

"Our goal is to maximize student safety as quickly and responsibly as possible," Vicky Triponey, vice chancellor for student affairs, told the trustees during their meeting, which was held in Rome Hall. "This plan achieves that goal, while also allowing full student access to all our residence halls."

The last five residence halls to receive the systems - Holcomb, Whitney, Sprague, Hicks, and Grange - will be upgraded before classes resume in August 2004, after a sprinkler main is brought across Route 195.

Twenty-two of UConn's 59 residence halls currently have sprinkler systems. Using funds from the UConn 2000 program, officials had previously planned to complete the systems by August 2005. However, during a discussion regarding student safety that included references to a tragic fire Jan. 19, 2000, that killed three students at Seton Hall University in New Jersey, UConn's trustees in November said they wanted the schedule accelerated.

Unlike Seton Hall, all of UConn's residence halls have state-of-the-art smoke detection and alarm systems, and self-closing doors, which, Triponey said, "are equally important contributors to fire safety." Also unlike Seton Hall, which relies on the South Orange, N.J., fire department, UConn has a fire department on campus that can reach any site within two minutes.

All the installation work on the new systems at UConn will be completed during the summers, with six existing buildings - residence halls and dining facilities - upgraded this summer, 11 more during the summer of 2002, and another 12 during the summer of 2003.

Once those projects are complete, officials said, 95 percent of student beds will be protected by sprinkler systems. The most recently equipped residence halls - Northwest and North campuses - were fitted with sprinklers last summer.

The schedule will be tight, however, said Triponey.

"Please keep in mind that this guarantees that each summer will be crunch time, when this work must be done so we don't have to take residence halls off-line during the academic year. We will be working from the moment students move out in May until the moment they return in August," she said.

If possible, she added, the last five buildings also will be completed before the summer of 2004.

Larry Schilling, university architect, said other renovations may accompany installation of the systems, including any necessary asbestos removal, new doors, ceilings and emergency lighting systems, new stairway railings, and possibly other repairs.

He said the approximately $30 million upgrade will begin this summer, with systems installed in both towers of McMahon and in the Hilltop residence halls. All these residence halls and dining facilities are high-rise structures.

Richard Veilleux