AK DOC Today

News, Events, and Activities in the Alaska Department of Corrections

Fairbanks Probation Office Overcomes Flood Damage

Video surveying the flood damage in the Fairbanks Probation Office

On the night of Friday, December 27th, the roof literally caved in on the Fairbanks Probation Office. The office is located on the ground floor of an eight-story apartment building and, sometime after the close of business on Friday and when On-Call Probation Officer Delila Schmidt reported to the office Saturday morning to prepare court filings related to overnight arrests, thousands of gallons of water poured into the office. Most of the water entered through the ceiling of four offices and a supply room.

When PO Schmidt opened the outside entry door to enter the office, she was met by the warm mist and sound of falling water and a wall of water that poured out the door over her feet. She quickly realized the entire office was covered with standing water at least two inches deep and retreated to contact her supervisor Jennifer Winkelman.

Subsequent investigation revealed that overnight an inch-and-a-half water line had burst in an upstairs apartment. That remained undetected overnight because the apartment renter was away visiting his girlfriend. The water poured through a suspended ceiling, destroying many panels and by then, contaminated with ceiling tile fibers, washed down into office spaces.

Water on the probation office floor ruined the carpet and quickly siphoned up the sheetrock wall of every room in the office space, except the armory and the evidence vault, which luckily were located in an old bank vault left behind by prior tenants. Office equipment, including eight computers, along with some furniture was ruined. Dozens of paper case files, and office supplies were drenched. Fortunately, the office computer server remained operable. The total damage assessment is continuing and might not be fully known for some time to come.

With the warm temperature in the office and the high humidity created by the flooding, a perfect habitat for mold was created. The building managers were quick to respond. Almost immediately, they brought in contractors who began removing damaged sheetrock to limit potential mold contamination. They also installed several de-humidifiers and fans to speed the drying process.

By the next Tuesday building managers provided space in the building that became known as the “crisis center”. For over a week, the entire Fairbanks staff, including the Electronic Monitoring staff, using cells phones for basic communication, worked in a single room approximately 20 feet by 30 feet, with six computers installed by the IT folks. Calculating that office repairs could take up to two months to complete, the building managers then identified space in the basement of an old federal courthouse building that had since been privatized, and moved the probation office into the space. IT staff again rose to the occasion by installing the infrastructure to support computers and copy machines, which they then installed. There, probation officers and support staff worked from banquet tables after the computer server links and computers were installed.

A month after the flood, repairs were completed. Damaged sheetrock had been replaced, walls were repainted, and the carpet was replaced. On January 23rd, not quite a month after the flood, probation staff was able to return to their home. Life is returning to normal, with staff much stronger for the experience.

— Glenn Bacon, Fairbanks District Supervisor