Alarm brings swift response to flooding at Town Hall


January 26, 2011
TILTON — A frozen catch basin after last week's snowstorm resulted in the backup of a drainpipe on the roof of Tilton Town Hall in the early morning hours, sending water cascading into the building where it eventually shorted out a smoke alarm on the first floor.

The alarm signaled Mango Security Systems that something was wrong, and they notified the Tilton-Northfield Fire Department, which immediately responded to the scene to investigate. Mango then notified Town Administrator Joyce Fulweiler of a problem in the building.

"I got a call from Mango at 3 a.m. and hurried over here to find firefighters on the roof and inside bailing the water out," Fulweiler reported to selectmen at their meeting last Thursday.

She in turn contacted Public Works Director Dennis Allen and the two got busy hauling buckets of water out as they helped the fire department mop up. Rowell's Sewer and Drain company was also contacted to clear the catch basin and drainpipe to prevent any further flooding.

Fulweiler said the town was fortunate the smoke detector in the downstairs bathroom filled with water and triggered the alarm. Otherwise, she said, there would have been "serious, serious damage."

As it stands the damage is serious enough and Fulweiler and town officials have been busy taking photographs for the insurance company and contacting firms that specialize in water cleanup. Fulweiler said most of the damage was to the structure itself. The alarm sounded in time to prevent any real damage to office equipment and vital town documents. Saturated ceiling tiles and insulation were removed and a drying process is now underway.

"The biggest immediate problem could be mold, and we aren't covered for that under our insurance. They advised me to call a company like ServPro to get things dried out as soon as possible before anything does get moldy," Fulweiler said.

There was also damage done to some of the hardwood flooring and the front of the stage in the upstairs meeting room where the water initially came through from the roof before spreading to the first floor. The alarms that filled with water were replaced along with wiring that shorted out but Fulweiler said they were still assessing the full extent of damage to beams, ceilings and other parts of the building.

Pat Consentino, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, said the town was indeed fortunate the alarms went off to notify emergency personnel of the situation.

"Had that not happened, the water would have continued coming in for another four hours before Town Hall opened for the day and they discovered it," she said.

Fulweiler told the board she was extremely grateful to the fire department, which stayed on scene until the drain was unclogged and she and Allen were able to handle things on their own.

"If it weren't for their prompt response we would have suffered serious, and I mean serious, damage to the building and office equipment," she said.

Fulweiler said later in the week that selectmen were working to take appropriate steps to correct the situation with the drain and catch basin to ensure a similar event does not reoccur in the future.

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