• Inspection uncovers serious safety problems at Georgia State Stadium

    By: Nicole Carr

    Updated:

    ATLANTA - An inspection report obtained by Channel 2 Action News shows the majority of sprinkler systems, and the fire pump that services them, are either non-existent or they don’t meet safety standards at Georgia State University’s stadium.

    The report contains hundreds of sprinkler recall, replacement and installation recommendations. It was completed on Aug. 4 by an inspector with Advantage Fire Sprinkler Company, Inc., a Dacula-based fire protection agency.

    The university said it was still issued a conditional Certificate of Occupancy by the State Fire Marshal’s Office, clearing the way for football fans to attend Panthers games.

    On Thursday, the university told Channel 2’s Nicole Carr that they inherited a number of building issues through the recent sale of the stadium, formerly Turner Field.

    That $30 million sale was facilitated by the Fulton County Recreation Authority in January.


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    “Some of the problems, which came up even before the report, we are repairing them,” said Ramesh Vakamudi, GSU’s associate vice president for facilities management.

    But Vakamudi admitted the university did not know the scope of the issues until the recent inspection, which happened in the middle of a multi-phase renovation project.

    “The details of which, we were not aware of until the report came out,” he said.

    THE PROBLEMS

    Carr went through nearly 200 line-item inspector recommendations to improve the system. There are roughly 700 noted recalls for sprinkler parts, with recommendations to replace each of those sprinklers.

    The inspector noted nearly 60 areas of the complex that had no sprinklers at all, including some service elevators.

    On one of the nine pages of recommendations, the report notes 51 sprinklers are in varying stages of corrosion, and also need to be replaced.

    The fire pump that feeds into the sprinkler system was not up to code either.

    Vakamudi said the repairs will be made in order of areas that will be occupied first as renovations are completed.

    “When we start occupying the service level all of those areas will be brought up to code, the fire code, as we renovate those areas,” he said.

    Bidders toured the stadium site as recently this week. Consultants will come in to survey the project that’s expected to cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. GSU officials hope the repairs are done by December.

    For the fans attending GSU events, a state-approved Fire Watch system is in place, he said.

    “To answer your question, yes, the building is safe for all the occupants,”  Vakamudi said. “If there is a fire situation in the stadium anywhere, the alarm should show up which area of the stadium.”

    GSU fire safety officials and security would take it from there.

    “If it’s a real one (emergency) they will notify people to evacuate the area while we’re trying to deal with the fire,” said Vakamudi.

    REACTION

    State Fire Marshals officials contacted Thursday were in the middle of touring Hurricane Irma damage on the Georgia coast. They told Channel 2 they’d be able to address the inspection report and concerns when they return this week.

    More than a half-dozen local fire protection engineers declined on-camera interviews about the report for various reasons, including familiarity and ties to the project. Two of them noted that the collective inspection report was concerning.

    Students coming out of athletic training and work-study at the stadium Thursday said the inspection report was shocking, but they have confidence in the University’s promise to keep crowds safe.

    “I think they’ve got it handled. By the time, if anything really did happen, they would have it handled,” said student Joe Curry.

    “I don’t know, that’s crazy," said Griffin Chaney. “It’s surprising because they just bought it. I thought it would be up-to-date with stuff.”

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