Concepts familiar from grade-school algebra have broad ramifications in computer science.
MIT Campus Police and other emergency personnel quickly sealed off a flooded area of Building 7 after Doreen Morris, assistant provost for administration, heard a nearby bang and went to the aid of an injured construction worker on June 27.
That summer morning began quietly for Ms. Morris with a chat with colleague Nancy Crosby, administrative assistant.
Then came the crash. Ms. Morris recalled asking, "'Do you think the construction crew planned that?' We also noticed what sounded like a change in the water pressure in the pipes in Nancy's office. Then I ran across the hall.
"I peered in the windows of the rooms under renovation (Rooms 7-201, 7-203 and 7-205) and didn't see any workers, which I thought was odd. The door was open, so I went in and looked around. A pipe was broken above the entryway and water was shooting across the room, hitting the windows.
"I noticed a worker on the ground, not moving. I yelled to him I was going to get help--then I went back to the construction site. Using a stool from my office, I was able to climb over the rubble and reach the injured worker.
"Now his eyes were open. The water from the burst pipe was rising quickly, so, not only was he in considerable pain, he was also lying in several inches of cold water. Also, it was very noisy; the water sprayed out with such force that it caused the Venetian blinds to come down with a crash."
Ms. Morris remained with the worker, Jacques Clotier, 42, a subcontractor with Metro-West Construction, until MIT Campus Police Officer Kevin Hayes and a Cambridge Fire Department officer arrived, followed by more rescue workers from the fire department and Professional Ambulance. The firefighters extricated Mr. Clotier, who was aided by Campus Police Officers Mary Riley and Robert Molino and taken to Massachusetts General Hospital. He was treated and released that afternoon.
Mahindra Roopnarine, a co-worker of Mr. Clotier, said he and Mr. Clotier were instructed to take down the wall between Rms 7-203 and 7-205. Standing on staging with Mr. Roopnarine on the floor nearby, Mr. Clotier struck the wall once, creating a large hole. The sprinkler pipe above him then burst with a bang heard by Ms. Morris, Ms. Crosby and others. The blast of water knocked him off the staging.
The rescue was only the beginning for Campus Police, however. "Twelve officers--the entire shift--were involved in responding," said Chief of Police Anne Glavin. "Officers evacuated the area, securing the basement, first-floor lobby and the second and third floors. There was water everywhere." They also kept in touch with Physical Plant workers monitoring the ceiling for any danger of collapse.
"Our next concern [after personal safety] is about property damage," Chief Glavin said. Campus Police escorted employees as they retrieved valuables, kept others out of the area and contacted deans whose offices were affected.
For Chief Glavin, events like this pose a challenge but also a chance to appreciate the "great team of Campus Police, Physical Plant, the Safety Office and EMS [emergency medical services] that clicks into place" when an emergency does occur. "That's the great thing about MIT--the emergency response team works so well together."
Vincent Clark, manager of construction services for Physical Plant, also praised the workers who moved furniture and other items into Building 11 to minimize water damage, electricians who fixed the power and sprinkler systems, and custodians who vacuumed up the water.
There were still a few small reminders of the accident early this week--the clock in Lobby 7 hasn't worked since the pipe burst, and the ceiling near the entrance to the Infinite Corridor has small holes, put there by Mr. Clark to let water out and air in. But the damaged ceiling tiles were fixed and furniture returned by the Monday after the flood.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on July 16, 1997.