Alan Cai, Business Manager
November 13, 2023
On the last day of September, water rushed across portions of the Morrison Athletic Center (MAC), flowing out of pipes and onto the floor from two primary sources: a broken sprinkler system in the boys’ locker room and the building’s main pump room. While this predicament ended up being a hassle for several teams, including the Boys Varsity Soccer team and their opponents, St. George’s, the damage caused was quickly contained and remedied by staff.
On that fateful day, a sprinkler head in the boys’ locker room was hit by a soccer ball, causing a degree of damage to the sprinkler. However, due to the nature of the fire control system in the MAC, the single damaged sprinkler head spiraled into a minor flood. Director of Athletics Alex Gallagher (N ’90) explained, “When a sprinkler head gets initiated when they break, all of the water in the pipes runs to that sprinkler head…So we ended up with some flooding in two locations. One was the locker room where the sprinkler head broke and the other was the pump room where there was so much water being forced to one sprinkler head that the pump room overflowed because the water couldn’t all get through.”
Luckily, the actual damage caused by the flood was relatively minimal. “There was ultimately very little damage of any sort. We ended up with some flooding in the [main lobby] and the boys’ locker room. It didn’t really get into Cafe 2000, but [it] got into some of the equipment storage areas that we have in the back. Nothing got destroyed,” Gallagher said. Furthermore, the school will reimburse students’ lost items from the flood. Gallagher continued, “We’ve been working with kids on things that might have been on the floor in the boys’ locker room that got ruined that we had to throw away. We’ve been working to reimburse people for their losses, but we’re talking about a few hundred dollars, not something massive.” Chief Financial Officer and Head Coach of the Boys’ Varsity Soccer Team Steve Ginsberg corroborated Gallagher’s assessment. “We will not submit an insurance claim for the flood […] It was a big disruption to the operations—games had to be canceled, but the actual damage was really limited,” Ginsberg said.
Gallagher credits the school’s contracted cleaning provider, UG2, with an effective and timely response to the flooding that allowed operations to smoothly resume within less than a day. Gallagher said, “Within 45 minutes of the accident, we had a team of UG2 people here to start working on the mess, and by the time I came down on Sunday, the next day, to check, you would have no idea that something had happened…We’ve got such a great cleaning crew team, who were not supposed to be here that day, but were here within 45 minutes and working their tails off to make sure that we were back to normal within about 12 hours.”
According to Ginsberg, the primary costs of the incident stemmed from cleaning expenses. Costs associated with fixing the broken pipes and replacing damaged equipment claims were a non-issue and taken up by the school’s emergency fund, which is in place specifically for these situations. Thus, no money was redirected from the school’s normal budget to address the incident. Interestingly, the school did not need to file an insurance claim due to the incident falling under the school’s deductible. Ginsberg explained, “Unless it’s over $10,000, we don’t submit a claim. [Insurance] is really to protect against something much bigger, and this incident will not come close to hitting that number.”
Even if the flood had caused significant damage, Nobles purchases insurance with a consortium of many other schools to mitigate financial risk. Ginsberg said, “We are part of a consortium with forty other independent schools in Massachusetts. We buy our insurance together. The reason behind that is if one school has a really bad year, it won’t affect their rates as much because you’re sharing the risk. For example, if there are a couple of schools that have really bad floods—million dollar floods—they have protection in that year and if it ever happens to Nobles, we will have the power of the Consortium behind us.” Luckily, Ginsberg notes that the most recent flood was a “non-event on the insurance side.”
While the school intends to invest in installing cages on the sprinkler systems around the MAC, school administrators do not shy away from reminding students to be careful about playing in the MAC and causing potential damage. While this flood was relatively minor, it still remains to be seen how the school will respond to future incidents, as natural disasters only increase in tempo, and insurance premiums continue to climb exponentially. The school has taken a great deal of measures to minimize the risk of accidents; however, this flood serves as a reminder that chance events may still occur. Luckily, the past flood, unlike the one that tore through the MAC on its first few opening days, caused minimal damage, allowing both faculty, staff, and students to continue enjoying a variety of athletic pursuits at the MAC without much hassle or delay.
(Photo Credit: Jonas Zatlyn-Weiner)