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Monday, November 29, 2021

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HRM College evacuated after technical failure sets off smoke alarms


Students, faculty and guests had to be evacuated from the Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management this afternoon when a technical failure set off the hotel’s smoke detectors.

HRM Director of Communications, Debbie Maurer  said the alarm went off at 12:55 p.m. after the third floor variable frequency drive that controls the air handler for the second floor of the hotel failed.

“The unit simply burned itself out and the smoke from the burnout set off the alarm,” Maurer said. “There was no fire.”

Though no one was harmed the incident proved to be especially alarming for hotel guest Teri Fruge who was staying at the hotel with her terminally ill son Coy who suffers from Batten Disease.

“I walked out because the electricity went out,” said Fruge who brought her son to Houston for treatment at Texas Children’s hospital. “Had we stayed up there we could have been trapped.”

Fruge said her son was escorted from their room on the sixth floor by his mother-in-law after Fruge was unable to reenter the hotel. While evacuating Fruge reported spotting smoke “between the buildings and into the stairwell.”

The building was evacuated according to the UH fire procedures at which point the UH fire Marshal came to inspect the scene along with two fire engines as a precaution, Maurer said.

Among those evacuated were a number of faculty attending an awards ceremony at the college which was cut short because of the alarms.

“They were gonna give the final award out and right as they were about to announce the name the alarm went off,” HRM professor John Bowen said.

At 1:30 p.m., less than an hour after the initial alarm sounded, guests, students and faculty were allowed to reenter the building.

Maurer said the hotel’s air handle is running on a separate system from other UH facilities set to make repairs on the broken variable frequency drive.


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