By: Ian DeJong | February 13, 2023
What were you doing on Boxing Day last year? Saving money on sales by going on a shopping spree? Trying out your new gifts? Spending more time with family? Whatever the case, something you wouldn’t want to hear the day after Christmas is an unfortunate message that your workplace is flooded. That was the experience of several employees at Redeemer.
The story begins with a pipe bursting above Room 225, one of the science labs. On the last day of the notorious winter storm that hit half the continent, Redeemer security detected cold temperatures in the classroom upstairs at 5:00 p. m., so they opened the door to give the room some warmth. Unfortunately, the temperature and strong winds of the storm were too powerful, causing a pipe to burst in the ceiling space above the room an hour after security detected the temperature. Two elbow pipe fittings broke off the pipe, and what followed was a chaotic flood amounting to an estimated 9,000 litres of water. Redeemer was not alone in its experience with a flood. Reportedly, four other buildings in Ancaster dealt with a similar situation.
The flood at Redeemer activated the fire alarm and triggered the sprinkler system. The water had been flowing out of the pipe for approximately 20 minutes before the fire department came, shut off the sprinklers, and stopped the water flow. Staying late into the night of the 26th, the maintenance and custodial teams cleaned up the water. Following Boxing Day, the entire drying process lasted until the first week of January, a cleanup effort that involved vacuums, fans, and dehumidifiers.
Alfred Mazereeuw, the director of physical plant and security at Redeemer, listed all the areas of the building that were impacted by the flood: “the second-floor classrooms 225, 224, the nearby exit stairwell, many of the science labs and hallway, the main hallway outside of Office Pod 221 and a few offices in 221; on the first floor affected areas included the cafeteria, men’s washroom by the cafeteria, the Commons, executive dining room, Classroom 112, and in the library the TERC (Teacher Education Resource Centre) room (110C) and in 110B.” A lot of the water that flowed to the first floor came via the exit stairwell.
The hardworking staff at Redeemer kept busy with several tasks, some of which are unfinished. These include re-mudding drywall, performing touch-up painting, repairing the heat detector and the fire alarm system, replacing damaged lights and ceiling tiles, and keeping an inventory of the damage.
As her initial reaction, Kristel Forcier, the manager of the 21Five bookstore, panicked because a flood in the bookstore could mean damaged books and a massive delay in textbook orders. However, her fears were soon relieved after discovering only minimal damage in the bookstore.
Surprisingly, as Forcier said, “There were stacks of cardboard boxes containing art supplies close to the wall, but the water flowed along the side and somehow avoided the boxes. John Deelstra [Redeemer’s maintenance supervisor] and I said it felt like God parted the Red Sea.” The worst area that was affected was the family and marriage section of the bookstore. Also, by some miracle, the water that leaked into the bookstore only dropped down the aisles and not the shelves, so the textbooks were safe from water damage. According to Forcier, “There was only a total of three textbooks that were not good enough to sell.” Alongside Forcier, John Deelstra kept an inventory of damaged items for insurance purposes.
The library was another notable area affected by the flood. After the flood, Brandon Swartzentruber, the assistant librarian, was tasked with assessing how many books were affected by the flood and making judgement calls on which books were too damaged for use. If the books were wet and mouldy, the library would send these books to get freeze-dried to kill the mould. In total, Swartzentruber flipped through about 600 books to check their quality. At one point during his job, he found an entire shelf of books that were stuck together as a result of the soaking water.
Some books were soaked with so much water that the library’s hardcovers essentially turned into paperbacks. The area of the library that was most impacted was the children’s literature section in the TERC room. At the time this was written there were some water bubbles in the TERC room wall, and the shelves have empty spaces. One of the most frustrating parts of work the week of the flood, said Swartzentruber, was the increasing mould and the smell it generated in the library.
Thankfully, mostly everything was finished on time before students came back to school for another semester. In Mazereeuw’s 17 years of working here, nothing has occurred quite like this before. As a way to prevent this from happening again, “Security will increase patrols of the building and ensure during cold snaps that all areas are sufficiently warm.”
Mazereeuw also mentioned that some Redeemer students sacrificed their Christmas break and New Year’s to get things back on track, performing tasks such as repairing the sprinkler system. With the perseverance of security, maintenance, custodial personnel, and students, the flood was averted from disaster. Redeemer’s timely response ensured that our books were ready for purchase and our classrooms did not experience lasting damage.
As Mazereeuw concluded, “The Redeemer staff that responded are dedicated individuals who care about the institution and are willing to go above and beyond to ensure that the institution is ready for the students during or after such events take place.” Although the staff may have had their Boxing Day stolen from them in a chaotic mess, this story demonstrates the hard work of employees at Redeemer and the love they have for their community.