I thought it was time to put up a post to go over what has been going on the past week. This is gathering up a lot of what we have been putting up a bit at a time on Facebook, while filling in some of the gaps.
Here’s the story:
- On Friday evening September 24th, one of the sprinkler heads mounted on the surface of our bouldering wall went off, sending a lot of water into the gym. While no one was hurt, a couple of women who were in the immediate vicinity were very surprised (and upset) by what happened.
- It took about half an hour for the fire department and the landlord to get the water shut off. By then the entire north half of the gym was thoroughly soaked. The water found its way behind the walls, and intruded several feet into the south half of the gym as well.
- Our landlord immediately called in a restoration company on our behalf. Strone Restoration is very experienced in cleaning up after these kinds of incidents, and they got to work very quickly. Within a few hours all the padding from the north half of the gym had been lifted and brought to a vacant unit across the hall, where they set up heavy duty drying equipment. The gym got filled with fans and dehumidifiers to dry the concrete and climbing walls, while the spare unit became a giant dehumidifier, with a trailer outside blowing in warm dry air, and pulling out the damp air.
- As the open cell foam dried, each piece was disinfected and deodorized. The carpet-bonded foam (the blue and red top layer) was steam cleaned. The red modular pad covers from the bouldering area were sent out to be cleaned.
- As the restoration company released pieces of padding to us after testing them for dryness (using a moisture meter that probed deeply into each piece of foam), we began to reassemble the enormous jigsaw puzzle of foam. We had labeled each piece before it was lifted Friday night, and drawn a map charting where each section belonged. The reassembly was actually pretty easy. Think of a 200-300 piece jigsaw puzzle, only each piece is about 5′ x 7′ x 4.75″. This part was kind of fun (if there can be fun in the middle of a nightmare).
- We were pretty close to having the gym reassembled and ready to open when we got the results of the environmental test on Wednesday evening September 29th (see below). That shut things down until we could figure out the next step.
- A second environmental test was done Thursday morning September 30th. The results from that test came in on Saturday October 2nd. The bacteria levels had dropped enough that the environmental consultant recommended a second steam cleaning of the blue carpet would get things clean enough for us to reopen the gym.
Some questions you may have:
Q: Why were there sprinkler heads on the climbing wall surface?
A: The National Fire Code requires sprinkler coverage in areas where an overhang blocks 4′ or more of the area beneath the main sprinkler system. To satisfy this, our architect’s engineers designed 8 sprinkler heads to be installed into the climbing wall surface: 6 in the bouldering area and 2 on the steep face of the lead cave.
Q: Why did the sprinkler go off?
A: We believe a climber made contact with the sprinkler head, causing it to go off. Those sprinkler heads were supposed to be “tamper-proof”, but apparently they are not. It now appears that it was a mistake to install this kind of sprinkler head on the wall.
Q: Why did you have to do environmental testing?
A: The water that came out of the sprinkler was dark and smelly. At a recent meeting of tenants of Parc Downsview Park we had learned that the sprinklers are fed from a very old underground water tank, and the water in it is of questionable quality. Based on that information, I decided it was prudent to request an environmental consultant be called in to assess the situation. No one directed us to do this, but it seemed the right thing to do to ensure the safety of our customers and staff. On Monday afternoon September 27th samples were randomly taken from 12 of the pads. On Wednesday evening September 29th we got the results of the test: 5 of them showed the presence of bacterial contamination, 4 of them at high levels. The test was repeated on Thursday morning September 30th, after the padding had been dried and disinfected. The levels had dropped substantially. At this point the environmental consultant recommended a second steam cleaning of the blue mats with disinfectant as all that was necessary to take care of the remaining bacteria.
Q: How do we know this won’t happen again?
A: The sprinkler head that went off has been removed; it turns out that it was not in a place with more than 4′ of overhang, so in fact it was never required. We have patched the hole in the wall at that location. The other 5 heads on the boulder wall have been replaced with a flush-mounted design. Those 5 and the 2 on the lead cave are now also protected by wire cages to prevent contact. We’re not keen on having these obstacles on the wall, but it’s the price we have to pay to make sure this never happens again.
Q: How do we know the gym is clean and safe now?
A: We are relying on our environmental consultant, DCS Ltd for their expertise in these matters. We have also consulted with the Toronto Board of Health to ensure we are satisfying them in how we dealt with this situation.
Q: When will the gym reopen?
A: The carpets were steam cleaned on Sunday, and then left to dry for 24 hours. We will replace the padding Monday and get the gym back in order, and will reopen Tuesday afternoon at 2pm as usual.
Q: What will you do to compensate members who were unable to come climb?
A: Prepaid members (including those with 2-week memberships that came as part of our Introductory Lesson Package) will have their membership expiry date extended by the number of days we were closed. Monthly Electronic Funds Transfer members will have their October dues reduced by an amount proportional to the fraction of a month that we were closed.
This past week or so has been extraordinarily difficult for us at the gym. Our pride and joy was disfigured and despoiled. We worked our buns off to get things put back together, only to be stopped by the initial test results. But there has been a bright side as well. Strone Restoration did an excellent job getting things clean and dry. Our insurance company (Front Row Insurance Brokers, and Crawford & Company Insurance Adjusters) have taken good care of us, and clearly have been working for us to help us through this mess. The landlord has been helpful and supportive, most significantly by calling in Strone Restoration immediately after the water was shut off. My staff has stepped up and pitched in to move things ahead. And the warmth of the support from the climbing community has keeping us going. This includes all our customers who have voiced their encouragement, the kid who told his mom he would rather reschedule his birthday party than do something else, and the other gyms (Climber’s Rock, Boulderz and Off The Wall) who have offered our members a good deal on climbing while we’re shut down. We can’t wait to reopen, and we won’t forget that support.