The Miami University Police Department was notified by a resident that his personal carbon monoxide detector was sounding an alert. We called the Oxford Department, they detected carbon monoxide, evacuated the building, and began investigating the source. By early evening, it was clear that we would not find and repair the source of the carbon monoxide in time for students to return to the hall to sleep. More than 250 students were assigned a temporary room on campus and they have just been notified that they can return to the building at their convenience.
Because Hillcrest Hall is heated by geothermal energy, we knew there was no combustion source related to heating and cooling in the building that could have caused the elevated levels. Miami University has been and continues to be in full compliance with the requirements of the state fire code for the facility. Our physical facilities department staff partnered with the Oxford Fire Department to investigate throughout the night. The source of the carbon monoxide was ultimately identified as exhaust from a hot water heater that is used to heat the water for showers and faucets. Under some conditions, the exhaust was pulled back into the building from outside through small openings in the structure of the building, which have been repaired. Both Miami’s physical facilities staff and the Oxford Fire Department have tested the building multiple times and have found no remaining carbon monoxide. We are in the process of inspecting all other residence halls on campus; thus far, no other issues have been discovered.
We have installed temporary carbon monoxide detectors in Hillcrest Hall and in an abundance of caution are determining how best to install them in all halls as a permanent system. We will provide additional information and an update on our corrective actions in future communications.
We are grateful to, and proud of, the Hillcrest students who alerted the MUPD to this situation.