By Andrea O’Brien
A live concert on Larned Beach during freshman orientation ended when the sprinkler system
went off unexpectedly.
First-year students, orientation leaders, and event coordinators attended the event.
Gina Pacitto, the program coordinator for the Center for Student Experience (EXP), directly oversaw the planning of this event, and was present when the sprinkler system “malfunctioned.”
She said the event had already been going on for about an hour and a half before the sprinklers began to go off.
To plan the event, the coordinators worked with Facilities to let them know of any electrical
needs and opened a ticket to turn off the sprinklers for the duration of the concert, said Pacitto.
“We put in a request to turn off the sprinklers for the entire week of orientation just because we had a lot of events, and we didn’t want the sprinklers going off,” said Pacitto.
“The first thing I remember was the sprinklers in the back field started going off,” she said, “and then they started creeping up closer and closer until we realized that they were definitely coming toward the stage.”
Event coordinators contacted Facilities and the sprinklers were eventually turned off, but
according to Pacitto, “It was a little too late.”
Pacitto said the concert had to be shut down for the time being as there was “a lot of
equipment that definitely couldn’t get wet.
“So myself and a bunch of other students were hopping in front of the sprinklers. We were
soaked, just trying to make sure that the equipment and none of the band stuff got ruined,” she said.
The day after the concert, EXP event coordinators spoke with Facilities and they had the confirmation that everything was set to be turned off, said Pacitto.
“It was just a terrible timing of a malfunction,” she said.
Brad Mellen, head of grounds, was on vacation at the time of this event and had to come in to get the sprinklers under control.
Mellen explained he has the capability to go on his phone and control the settings of the
sprinklers and was unsure if he had saved the changes made to the setting for that day.
“On the settings, when you change it, you have to save it. So, I don’t know if I hit the ‘save’
button or not when I changed them,” said Mellen.
Since it was the week of Black and Gold Beginnings on campus, there were multiple events
going on around campus, so there were a bunch of sprinklers that had to be turned off, Mellen said.
“Still no excuse, though. It should’ve been taken care of, but it wasn’t. It slipped through,” he
Some students who attended the event made the best of the situation.
Orientation leader and Vice President of SGA, Raffi Elkhoury, a senior, took photos at the event and used the situation as an opportunity to capture some of the orientation leaders running through the sprinklers.
“In that moment, I saw smiles and joy. It was spontaneous fun,” said Elkhoury. “A few other
times during orientation week, the sprinklers went off out of the blue, but it was hot out, anyway.”
For Liv West, a sophomore orientation leader, while she did take the opportunity to run through the sprinklers when they went off, this mishap worried her a few weeks later at the candlelight vigil on Larned Beach for Djeila Barbosa.
“I was scared they were going to go off, so I hope they plan it better if there is an event,
especially if it’s really serious, that they don’t go off,” said West.
With this incident happening right before the school year was set to begin, it made some students extra aware of the other sprinklers around campus.
Junior Jenna Butch had a particular experience where she found it difficult to get around the
water coming from a sprinkler while coming out of Horace Man Hall.
“They had sprinklers on the ends of both the pathways out, and as I was trying to leave, the
sprinklers were on by both paths and I just couldn’t get out and it was just getting everywhere,” said Butch.
Other students notice the sprinklers are on at unnecessary times, such as while it is raining.
Ali Walter, a senior, said, “Sometimes, I’ll still see them going off either when it had just rained a ton or if it’s about to rain or when it’s actually raining, and it seems like a waste of water.”
Since some students feel that the sprinklers staying on in the rain is a waste of water, Brad
Mellen explained why this can happen.
The systems have rain sensors but just because they have these sensors does not mean that when it rains, they will automatically shut off, said Mellen.
Inside the sensors, there is a cork system that must get wet and then swell when it is raining out. Once it swells, it pushes a switch down to turn off the sprinklers, said Mellen.
“Depending on how the rain’s driving, will depend on whether the rain sensor actually gets wet or not, to push the sensor off,” he said.
He explained that on a dry day, if the skies open and it starts to rain, and students see the
sprinklers on, it’s because the sensor has not gotten wet enough to turn off the system.
Mellen said, “When people see the system on when it’s raining and say, ‘Why is this still on when it’s raining?’ well, understandable, right? But that’s how they work.”