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Posted on Tue, Jan 10, 2012 : 4:11 p.m.

U-M cancer center evacuated after water main break floods tunnels

By Cindy Heflin

A major water main break on Tuesday at the University of Michigan Medical Center flooded utility tunnels and required evacuation of the first three levels of the cancer center.


The first three floors of the University of Michigan Cancer Center had to be evacuated.

The water was shut off and flooding was being contained, a message sent to employees at 3:17 p.m. said.

Electricity was shut off in the cancer center and the facility was running off generator power. Phone service in the cancer center was also down.

The cancer center was to be closed for patient care Tuesday night and all day Wednesday due to flooding in the lower levels and a lack of power in the building. Affected patients are being contacted, U-M said.

The flood also knocked the west elevators out of service at University Hospital, but otherwise damage to the hospital was minimal and patient care there was not affected, the message said.

U-M also said there was no impact on care at the Cardiovascular Center, the Taubman Center or the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital and Von Voigtlander Women’s Hospital building.

The break happened at 1:30 p.m., U-M Health System spokeswoman Nicole Fawcett said. Some patients were undergoing infusions when the power went out after the break, but the center immediately switched to backup generators, she said. All non-emergency procedures were then canceled. Patients were evacuated without incident, she said.

The cancer center has four patient floors, with research floors above that.

“We have dozens of physicians and staff working to ensure that our patients receive the best care with as little inconvenience as possible. Everyone is pitching in,” Max M. Wicha, M.D., director of the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center, said in a press release.

Because of water damage to some communications equipment in the flood area, phone calls to some areas of the medical campus may not go through on the first try this evening and overnight, U-M said. Patients and others trying to make phone calls this evening or overnight were advised to try again if they experience any problems.



Wed, Jan 11, 2012 : 2:47 p.m.

Did anyone else catch that the U-M Health System spokeswoman for the Water Main Break was named "Fawcett" ? Too funny!

Kai Petainen

Wed, Jan 11, 2012 : 12:44 a.m.

Kara, Thanks for the clarification and update. Most appreciated. Hopefully the water damage is minimal. -kai

Kara Gavin

Tue, Jan 10, 2012 : 11:29 p.m.

The evacuation was performed because there was no power to the building - there was no threat to anyone. Emergency power kicked in, making it possible to complete vital procedures that were under way. As in any situation, a full assessment of impact will be performed, but at this time all indications are that this was a release of fresh water and was contained within buildings and the sanitary sewer system. Kara Gavin U-M Health System Public Relations

Kai Petainen

Tue, Jan 10, 2012 : 10:23 p.m.

sounds messy. question -- this sounds like a rather large flood (as they had to evacuate people on 3 floors). that raises a question.... cancer clinics use all sorts of chemicals (including radioactive)... was anyone exposed to stuff they should not have been exposed to... on the flooded floors? did anything spill and flow into the river via the nearby outfalls? if so... that will probably require some sort of report.


Wed, Jan 11, 2012 : 11:45 a.m.

Tunnels flooded, not floors. Electricity and phones were cut, impacting care, resulting in evacuation of floors. All in the article...

Kai Petainen

Wed, Jan 11, 2012 : 4:02 a.m.

it doesn't hurt to ask. plus... with any sort of spill/flood/etc... it's good to think of these things. thankfully this one... was just water.


Wed, Jan 11, 2012 : 3:05 a.m.

Right, all those .... chemicals are just sitting on shelves, open with no lid. The more dangerous, the more weak and breakable the container.