Healy Hall was evacuated after smoke from a mechanical failure in a basement heating unit triggered a fire alarm Monday afternoon.
Washington, D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services ultimately determined the smoke resulted from a defective fan belt on a heating, ventilation and air conditioning unit and not from a fire, according to Vito Maggiolo, D.C. FEMS’ public information officer. There were no reports of injuries.
“It was a relatively minor incident,” Maggiolo said in an interview with The Hoya. “There was a defective fan belt on a HVAC unit, which produced some smoke, and the HVAC units tend to spread the smoke around. No fire occurred; there was primarily a mechanical issue.”
At 2:13 p.m., D.C. FEMS dispatched vehicles to Healy after receiving reports of smoke inside the building. The building had been evacuated by campus officials prior to the department’s arrival, according to Maggiolo.
Once the incident was reported to the university, Georgetown called Pepco, the local energy and electricity company, and they contacted the department, according to Maggiolo. D.C. FEMS then dispatched a “box alarm” response, a predetermined procedure in the event of a potential fire that consists of approximately 10 units and 45 personnel who respond to the incident.
The size of the department response was not unusual because of the building’s large size and location on a college campus, Maggiolo said.
“We send a significant number of equipment depending on the type of structure it is and other circumstances,” Maggiolo said. “Unless the call indicated that this was absolutely something that was confirmed to be minor, we would send a large amount of equipment.”
Rachel Pugh, Georgetown University’s senior director of strategic communications, confirmed the source of the problem was an electrical issue in Healy’s mechanical room that was resolved by D.C. FEMS.
“This afternoon, DC Fire and EMS responded to a fire alarm activated on the ground floor of Healy Hall,” Pugh wrote in an email to The Hoya.
Kiernan Christ (SFS ’22), who was attending a Problem of God class in Healy when the fire alarm went off, said that she and her classmates were worried because they could smell burning rubber.
“At the beginning, I wasn’t concerned — I figured it was just another fire drill like I’d had in my dorm,” Christ said. “But as we headed outside and for the first five minutes or so, we could smell something like burning rubber, which was pretty alarming.”
The classes that were evacuated because of the fire alarm were cancelled for the remainder of the class period.
Other areas of campus have experienced false fire alarms within the past year, including an October circuit failure in the Nevils dormitory that triggered multiple false alarms. Last February, a series of late-night fire alarms were set off inadvertently in Southwest Quad.
This is an ongoing story.