Natural gas scare causes SMU to evacuate buildings, cancel classes
Published: Wednesday, September 12, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, November 20, 2012 17:11
September is National Emergency Preparedness Month and the SMU community got a real life reminder of the need to prepare on Tuesday, Sept. 11, when multiple buildings on campus and houses in the surrounding neighborhood were evacuated due to a suspected natural gas line leak.
Shortly before 9 a.m. there was a report of the smell of natural gas near the Dawson Service Center at 3050 Dyer Court. According to Kent Best, executive director of SMU’s News and Communications Office, the university decided to evacuate the Dawson Service Center, SMU Service House, and the Embrey Engineering Building.
An email was sent out just past 9 a.m. to the SMU community announcing the situation and recommending students avoid the area. Best said the university also alerted people through SMU’s Facebook and Twitter accounts and with a banner across the top of SMU.edu.
After Atmos Energy arrived on the scene, the decision was made to expand the evacuation zone to include all of the Lyle School of Engineering, the fraternity houses, the Blanton Service Centerand the 43 houses on McFarlin Boulevard and Fondren Drive between Airline Road and Dublin Street. Natural gas service to the campus was also turned off as a safety precaution.
Andy Scott, a sophomore marketing major, was still sleeping in the Sigma Phi Epsilon house on SMU Boulevard and was “very surprised” to find out about the evacuation.
His fraternity brother, Will McNamara, a sophomore finance major, said, “They did not really tell us where to go, they just told us to get out of the house.”
Others, like Nick Bastoni, a senior majoring in mechanical engineering and mathematics, and Irma Gonzales Skaggs, coordinator of the Lyle Finance Office, were displaced from classrooms and offices.
Bastoni said that although he had found out about the evacuation on Facebook, he wasn’t sure if classes would be cancelled so he walked over towards Lyle. “Only half the class was there,” Bastoni said, eventually the professor came and said class was cancelled.
“It is ironic that it was on 9/11,” Skaggs said.
“Though it took us away from work it made us reflect on how fortunate were are. Talk about a moment of silence.”
Although Atmos was unable to locate the source of the gas leak smell it was decided around 11 a.m. that it was safe to call off the evacuation.
The intersection of Dyer Street and Airline Road was reopened by mid-Afternoon.
SMU, which also sends out emergency alerts via text messaging, requests that students keep their cell phone numbers up to date in Access.SMU. Best said this event was a “good reminder to know what to do in an emergency.”
Information on SMU’s disaster preparedness plan “SMU Aware” is available at smu.edu/businessfinance/policeandriskmanagement.