Burst pipes brought on by cold weather leave a library and a record store drenched

“It sounded like every shower in a hotel being turned on,” said owner of Graywhale record store.

(Salt Lake County Library) Emergency crews responded to a burst sprinkler pipe at the West Jordan branch of the Salt Lake County Library on Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2023.

A West Jordan library and a Taylorsville record store both dealt with water damage Tuesday from the same source: Fire suppression sprinkler units malfunctioning, spurred on by bitter cold temperatures.

The water damage happened in the book drop room of the Salt Lake County Library’s West Jordan branch, and at Graywhale Entertainment in Taylorsville.

The malfunction in the drive-thru book drop room — in the Viridian Events Center, at 8030 S. 1825 West in West Jordan — set off the fire alarm, and prompted the building to be evacuated Tuesday, said Sara Neal, the marketing and communications manager for the county library system.

“We found out in the interim that, because it was so cold, one of the pipes in the fire suppression sprinkler system burst,” Neal said. “That triggered the alarm.”

The alarm then triggered the sprinklers, soaking the book drop room and damaging what Neal estimated to be fewer than 100 books, as well as other library supplies. A facilities crew was on site shortly after the alarm, and the library branch closed for the rest of the day.

The sprinklers didn’t cause a significant impact to the library as a whole, Neal said, adding that the county system will monitor other branches that have drive-thru book drop rooms — particularly as temperatures remain below freezing.

The branch reopened Wednesday morning, though people dropping off books had to go inside the building.

Also Tuesday, about five miles away in Taylorsville, Graywhale Entertainment had its own problems with fire suppression equipment. The sprinklers flooded the store, which houses several different forms of audio media, including records and CDs.

Video from the store’s Instagram account shows water pouring from the ceiling onto the sidewalk outside, and employees using brooms to push water out the front door.

A thread posted on the store’s Twitter account detailed that the flooding came through the front of the store, rushed through windows and walls, and settled onto the floor. Many of the store’s vinyl and CD tables weren’t damaged because of elevated tables, and the checkout counter area saw the brunt of the damage.

In an email update, owner Dustin Hansen told The Tribune the store suffered “severe electrical and structural damage.” Hansen said they aim to reopen this weekend or early next week.

“It’s been a rough and wild day. We were fortunate to not lose much product,” Hansen wrote in his email. “My incredible staff sprang into action and we were able to get things moved around. The runoff from the burst pipes is still draining and may take a few days to stop.”

Hansen said Wednesday that he estimates the store lost $1,000 in products damaged, while he could lose between $15,000 and $60,000 from lost revenue while the store is closed.

Building insurance should cover the repair costs, Hansen said, because the pipe burst outside the store. “That’s the property management and the building owners responsibility to make sure [the system] is maintained and up to code,” Hansen said. “One of the issues I’m hearing from the fire department and other people is that we have a system out there that’s old and wasn’t functioning properly.”

Hansen said he first noticed the pipe was fully extended from the ceiling when he arrived at work Tuesday morning, and he called the property manager several times. Hansen left another message, detailing a leak — and, about 20 minutes later, the Graywhale staff heard a loud noise.

“It sounded like every shower in a hotel being turned on,” Hansen said.

Hansen said the situation, while stressful, has reminded him how lucky they are to have a community that cares so much about the store. He credited his employees for their quick work to keep more of the store’s inventory from being damaged.

Experts encourage businesses to maintain fire suppression sprinkler systems ahead of the winter, because freezing weather often can make pipes burst. Summit Fire Protection wrote in a 2020 blog post that the best way to keep systems from freezing is providing year-long maintenance. And the National Fire Alarm Code says suppression systems should be checked annually, but the responsibility for maintenance lies with the building owner or property manager.

Neal said the county library system is less worried about suppression systems in younger buildings — like the Viridian Center, which houses the West Jordan branch — because they are more modern. The county is watching out for older buildings with dated systems.

“We’re treating [this] as an unexpected incident due to the cold weather, and it’s something we know to be aware of in the future,” Neal said.