Howard University’s Weather-Related Emergency – What Happened?

  1. What occurred that created such an adverse impact on Howard’s campus?
    In early January, the District experienced extreme weather conditions and record low temperatures for a sustained period.  The weather emergency had an adverse impact on facilities across Howard University.  Specifically, we lost boiler functionality, which aids in providing heat to campus buildings, and experienced several significant power outages and steam pipe ruptures.  These events caused additional water leaks and damage across campus.
  2. What is the extent of damage incurred across campus?
    Damage across campus has been significant.  The buildings most profoundly affected were Douglass Hall, Annex I and Annex II. Those buildings will be offline for the remainder of the Spring semester, at a minimum. Numa Adams Building suffered water damage, but we anticipate that we will be able to repair damage within weeks. 
  3. How did something like this happen?
    We are currently doing a forensic analysis of the incident with senior engineers, metallurgists and our insurance company. Initial assessment points to multiple steam pipe fractures and the mechanical failure of two of our boilers, resulting in loss of heat to some of our buildings. Initial assessments indicate that our buildings would not have suffered this type of damage if we had not lost heat to them. Once the boilers were no longer providing steam to some buildings, the problems started to occur. During the campus holiday closure, we winterized the campus and set the thermostats of unoccupied buildings to 55 degrees, well above freezing. After the boiler failure occurred, the loss of heat combined with sub-zero temperatures resulted in the freezing of sprinkler and domestic pipe systems. Residual water in these systems turned to ice. When water in a pipe freezes, it expands and puts tremendous pressure on both metal and plastic pipes. If the pipe breaks, it can easily release a torrent of water into a building, usually flooding basements first, in accordance with the law of gravity. 
  4. How long will it take before damage is remediated and buildings are fully restored?
    Some buildings are in great shape and have experienced minimal damage, so pre-clearance for occupancy was easily established. Others have experienced damage such as ceiling tiles being saturated with moisture, failing floor tiles being lifted and carpeting destroyed by flooding. The repair times vary. We've managed to do some repairs the same day they were reported, and others within 48 hours. However, some will take longer. There are several factors that affect construction times: availability of materials, permitting, access to fix repairs etc. A construction schedule will be posted on this site.
  5. What is the status of the HU steam plant?
    At this time, we have three boilers supplying heat to our campus and to the hospital; one is a temporary boiler. Additional temporary boilers have been ordered and will be installed. The steam plant is fragile. The weather has placed significant strain on the boilers, but we are maintaining the machines and installing backup boiler equipment to mitigate the risk of failure.
  6. How can I stay apprised of updates?
    Please continue to read the HU Communication emails in their entirety, visit the University’s ‘Campus Response to Weather Emergency’ webpage and follow official Howard University social media channels (@howardu; @HUPrez17).
  7. How do faculty and staff account for loss of irretrievable personal items?
    The University’s insurance provides coverage for reimbursement of losses to personal property of faculty and staff that resulted from weather-related damage to University facilities.  
  8. How do I file a claim if my personal items have been damaged?
    Faculty and staff should keep personal property that was in their offices and labs and other University spaces that was damaged or rendered unusable due to extreme conditions that were caused by water or stream infiltration or other extraordinary building hazards, and should assemble evidence of ownership and value of lost items.  Once it is safe for faculty and staff to enter buildings that are currently closed due to hazardous conditions and everyone can fully assess their losses, the University will announce the claims process for losses of personal property.  This may take a few weeks to implement as our current priorities must be the implementation of relocation places to create alternative replacement spaces for unusable classrooms, labs and offices; restoring safe conditions; mitigating any potential for further damage and working with our insurance adjusters to fully document the extent and causes of the property damage we have experienced.  If you wish to report damage within your building that is not a personal property claim, please email details to eyewitness@howard.edu.
  9. How will Howard pay for the damage resulting from this weather emergency?
    Howard University will file a claim with our insurance company for damages to cover the cost of repairs caused by the weather emergency.
  10. What is the total cost of damage and repairs?
    Damage is still being assessed, however, we estimate that repair costs will reach millions of dollars.
  11. What assurances do faculty, staff and students have that the buildings are safe?
    Howard is working closely with vendors who have a high level of credibility and experience and have already been approved by our insurance company. Uri Gutfreund, the professional firm managing remediation and repairs, is conducting water evacuation, dry out, mold remediation and air quality testing before each building is cleared for entry. 
  12. How long will it take to address all the repairs?
    Though the University is remedying issues as they arise, the campus community should expect to feel the effects of these issues throughout the remainder of the semester, at a minimum. The University is facing the need for millions of dollars in temporary repairs, if permanent ones aren’t immediately possible.  The University is also working with our insurance company and Physical Facilities Management (PFM) to determine the extent of the damage, provide insurance claim information and begin permanent repairs.
  13. Who should I contact regarding facilities issues that need to be addressed?
    If you notice any facilities-related issues that need to be addressed, please contact Thompson Facilities Services at (202) 806-1000.
  14. How should I report damage in my buildings?
    Please contact your building manager to report any facilities-related damage.  Building managers are creating an inventory of damage for each building. To report damage that is not personal property, please email details to eyewitness@howard.edu.

Academic Enterprise Impact – What Do I Need to Know?

  1. How does the postponement of classes impact the academic calendar?
    The original schedule was designed with contingencies for snow days because of inclement weather. The revised schedule utilizes those contingency days. Therefore, we will still provide the full, necessary instructional time for academic programs, without having to cancel or disrupt Spring Break or change the date of Commencement.
  2. Does the revised academic calendar impact Spring Break or commencement?
    No. The revised academic calendar ensures the full, necessary amount of instructional time needed for all classes without disrupting Spring Break or changing the date of Commencement.
  3. Will students have more time to register for classes?
    Yes. The registration period for all students (undergraduate, graduate and professional students) has been extended to Jan. 26, 2018.
  4. Will the office hours of academic advisors be extended?
    Yes. The Office of Undergraduate Studies will have advisors available to assist students beginning Monday, Jan. 15, 2018.
  5. What impact will the revised schedule have on grant deadlines?
    If a faculty member has grant deadlines that are no longer feasible under the revised calendar, please provide that information to the Office of the Provost, so that communication can be directed to funding agencies.
  6. Will professors whose labs encountered damage be reassigned to operable labs?
    We are working with deans and faculty colleagues to identify opportunities for faculty to share laboratory space and also utilize core lab facilities in the Interdisciplinary Research Building. We are also collaborating with neighboring institutions that have offered to provide academic space, as applicable. More updates will be provided as these collaborations develop.
  7. Where will classes be held that were originally scheduled in Douglass Hall, Annex I and Annex II?
    The University has relocated all classes previously held in Douglass Hall, Annex I and Annex II to new locations based on necessity. The relocation of these classes may have caused the relocation of other classes, as well. All class assignments can be accessed via BisonWeb, bisonweb.howard.edu.  The additional buildings where some classes have been moved include:
    1. Cancer Center
    2. College Hall South- Multipurpose Room (Office of Residence Life entrance)
    3. Howard Plaza Towers-West (Multipurpose Room)
    4. Howard University Research Building
    5. Howard University Hospital
    6. iLab
    7. Interdisciplinary Research Building (IRB)
    8. Louis Stokes Health Sciences Library
    9. Wonder Plaza

    *Please check BisonWeb for details about specific class locations

  8. Will any classes be held off campus or at other institutions?
    No. We have scheduled the 500 class relocations without compromising scheduled class times or using off-campus buildings, neighboring universities or commercial spaces. All classroom reassignments are updated live on BisonWeb (bisonweb.howard.edu).
  9. Where can I find reassigned classrooms for my courses?
    All classroom reassignments are updated live in BisonWeb (bisonweb.howard.edu). 
  10. What accommodations have been made for faculty and students who will need to navigate potentially increased distances between reassigned classes?
    The HU Shuttle service has been modified to offer shorter routes to move faster around campus to serve faculty, staff and students. The service has also been enhanced with additional shuttle buses to increase the frequency of routes during peak times (Monday – Friday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.).
  11. How long will Douglass Hall be offline?
    What about Annex I and Annex II? Douglass Hall, Annex I and Annex II all received significant damage.  These buildings will be offline this semester and likely next academic year.  The full extent of the damage is still being assessed.  More details will be provided about plans for these buildings once the assessments are complete.
  12. Numa Adams experienced damage just this week.
    What is the extent of damage and when will that building be restored?
    Damage in the Numa Adams Building was primarily due to flooding secondary to frozen, then ruptured pipes. The extent of damage is being assessed and will determine the dates of restoration and re-opening.
  13. How many classes did the University have to re-locate?
    The University had to relocate more than 500 classes.
  14. How will the delay in opening facilities affect junior faculty and their tenure process?
    Junior faculty who are affected by flooding, building damage, damage to laboratories, etc. will be able to submit requests for consideration of their tenure process through their department chairs and deans.
  15. Will tuition increase to cover any of the damage resulting from the winter storm?
    No tuition increases are anticipated because of damage from the storm. The University's insurance coverage will be utilized to address renovation and restoration of property that has been damaged.
  16. How can professors utilize online resources to facilitate courses?
    Interested professors who are not already Distant Learning Certified should contact the Center for Excellence in Teaching, Learning and Assessment (CETLA). In some cases, an option exists to test out of training and migrate courses to online instruction.
  17. Are there online resources available for professors who cannot fulfill their Distant Learning Certification in time for the start of classes?
    Yes. Professors can use BisonWeb (bisonweb.howard.edu) to post their syllabi, facilitate online discussions and post readings and other important course content.