UMass Campus Center
Hank Investigates: UMass Campus Center
It's new its expensive its filled with students, but some say it never should have opened.
"How would you characterize the fire safety situation right now in that building?" Hank Phillipi Ryan asked.
"I'd say it was unknown," Lt. William Gaylord of the Boston Fire Department said.
The $80 million Campus Center at UMass Boston, the April 2004 opening festivities with state and local bigwigs, but our investigation found state building officials knew back then their showcase project did not meet the Mass building code. Now, more than a year later, we found its still failing fire safety tests.
"So these prove they knew something was wrong?" Ryan asked.
"Oh thatís true, absolutely," Lt. Gaylord said.
Problem one: emergency evacuation.
Stairwell four is one place students and faculty could exit in a fire; it's supposed to have a special air pressure system to keep it smoke free.
But while the building was open for business, state officials knew that system didn't work. After our inquiries, the Division of Capital Asset Management, the agency managing the building, sent us brand new test data indicating the stairwell has just been fixed.
So has it? State regulations say local fire officials must witness tests confirming all fire protection systems work. So far that has not happened.
"So you do know now that it works?" Hank asked
"No I don't. We have to know for the safety of everyone in that building as well as people who might respond to a fire," Boston Fire Marshall Deputy Chief Peter Laizza said.
Problem two: water supply.
Firefighters must hook into standpipes to bring water up to the buildings upper floors. But tests for the past year show in the Campus Center thereís not always the proper pressure to power the hoses. Firefighters know when water isn't ready it could mean dangerous delays.
"And the people inside?" Ryan asked.
"They could be put in a very bad situation and it could happen very rapidly," Lt. Gaylord said.
The Mass Department of Public Safety, which inspects and approves construction of state buildings, told us the building is safe, but admitted: "... theyíre are improvements that must be made to bring the building into full compliance with the building code..."
Still, the DPS allowed the Campus Center to open.
The Boston Fire Department told us its only open because it's controlled by the state, and not by local building inspectors.
"If it were a private building, would you want that building open?" Ryan asked.
"No and it wouldn't be," Deputy Laizza said.
"This is a safe building," insists Ed Hayward of UMass Boston.
UMass officials tell us the state has assured them there's no problem and they're working diligently to resolve the issues. This fall thousands more students will pour into the building.
"What if something happened and then all these issues all came to light?" Ryan asked.
"People are taking these issues very seriously that the building is open because itís safe and if it wasn't safe it wouldn't be open," Hayward said.
Bottom line: the Campus Center does not have a permanent certificate of occupancy, those are only issued to places fully compliant with the building code. The price tag for repairs is $2 million.
Firefighter training video provided by: Action Training Systems, Inc. www.action-training.com
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