Cause of CO Buildup Identified, Corrected

Salem Fire and EMS, working with Roanoke College staff, investigated the source of Saturday morning’s CO buildup and have determined the cause was a chimney obstructed by a dead bird and other debris, possibly compounded by recent heavy rains. The house has both a gas water heater and boiler, which were checked along with all of the campus’ other gas appliances in late summer, prior to the beginning of the school year.

Roanoke College staff members are in the process of checking all similar flues. The College also will have an outside contractor to review the campus procedures, inspect various flue systems and recommend actions as appropriate.

These efforts are being put into place after the College experienced a second carbon monoxide accident early Saturday morning at the Sigma Chi fraternity house on campus. Fortunately, an alarm sounded, the house was evacuated and no one was injured. The student residents were relocated to another campus building for the remainder of Saturday morning and were back in the Sigma Chi building by Saturday evening after the flue had been cleared and then was checked by the Salem Fire Department. The Sigma Chi house is a college-owned building.

“It is reassuring to know that the alarms and response procedures initiated this summer worked,” said Dr. Sabine O’Hara, president of Roanoke College. “We will continue to educate students, faculty and staff to maintain awareness of appropriate safety steps on our campus. And as always, we are committed to providing for the safety of our entire campus.”

Information Released September 16

At approximately 1 a.m. Saturday, Roanoke College Campus Safety dispatchers and officers were contacted by a resident of the Sigma Chi fraternity house regarding a carbon monoxide detector alarm sounding in the house.  The alarm had been installed as a result of the carbon monoxide accident this summer, which occurred in another building. Campus Safety officers went to the scene and safely evacuated the building immediately.  No one required medical attention.  Salem Emergency Services was contacted, and the Salem Fire Department responded.

The College is providing alternative housing for the residents of the building until the cause of the incident is determined. 

“We are determined to keep our campus safe, and it is reassuring to know that the safety measures we implemented this summer are working,” President Sabine O’Hara said. “This incident is also a reminder that all of us need to take it seriously when we hear an alarm sounding on campus. The residents of the house immediately contacted Campus Safety, and I am grateful for their quick and appropriate response.”

For more information on the July 14 carbon monoxide accident, click here.