At some point between the evening of Friday the 11th of January and the morning of Monday the 14th, an unidentified person or persons opened six gas valves in biology lab room 303 of the SAM building at Seattle Central’s Broadway campus. Around 6 am on Monday morning, the head of the biology lab arrived on the third floor, found the valves open and immediately shut them all off before reporting the incident. The open lines had filled the lab with methane which created a potential for an explosion had there been a sufficient spark to ignite the gas.
SCC administration is actively performing a full investigation in the wake of the incident. David Ernevad, the Director of Capital Projects and Facilities at Seattle Central, met with Sean Chesterfield, the head of campus security, Thursday evening to review the results from the security feed and keycard login data. Interviews are being conducted with every faculty and staff member who was known to be in the building over the weekend. Dr. Wendy Rockhill, the Dean of STEM-B in the SAM building, says that the administration is taking the situation very seriously, and that one of her primary concerns is the safety and well-being of the employees who were put at risk.
At this point, little is known about who is responsible and what their motivations were, nor why the gas valves were able to remain open for as long as they were without being detected. Ernevad and Rockhill both said that there are going to be changes to the infrastructure of the building to include timed shut-offs to the gas lines when the building is not in use. There will be additional alterations made to the security regarding access and safety checks, and updated protocols for any similar future events.
Regardless of whether the incident was negligence or malice, having devices that would detect excess gas and allow for remote shut-off would almost entirely mitigate the potential for harm, and having stricter security practices to prevent unauthorized access to any rooms would also minimize the ability for such a thing to happen in the first place.
This is a developing story; please stay tuned for updates as more details are made known.