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Shawnee nonprofit suffers heavy damages after sprinkler system freezes, ruptures

Sunflower House sprinkler system ruptures
Sunflower House sprinkler system ruptures
Sunflower House sprinkler system ruptures
Sunflower house sprinkler system ruptures
Posted at 1:22 PM, Feb 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-19 14:22:27-05

SHAWNEE, Kan. — A Shawnee-based nonprofit agency now faces a difficult recovery period because of the cold weather.

The sprinkler system in their building froze and burst on Tuesday.

41 Action News learned about the issue because anchor Taylor Hemness serves as a board member for The Sunflower House. The agency provides a safe location where child victims from Johnson and Wyandotte Counties are able to interview with counselors about abuse.

When the incident happened on Tuesday afternoon, staff in the building thought there was a fire.

“The water burst came from our fire sprinkler system, so from my understanding, that pumps out about 100 gallons of water per minute, so that stirred up a lot of stuff in our attic,” Judi Rodman, President and CEO of Sunflower House said. “So what we were seeing was some of the debris, some of the steam from the water hitting colder surfaces, because we have furnaces up there. So it wasn’t actually smoke, but there was a lot of steam and debris flying in the air.”

Rodman says that they’ve been told to expect to be out of the building for months. That’s a problem because abuse victims and their families come to the building to describe what’s happened to them in a safe, neutral environment.

“Our interviews are video recorded, and so with that system, it’s hard to transfer it,” Rodman said. “So that’s why we’re working with local police departments because they have that capability right there in their facility, so that we can still do that. To be able to transfer it to another side of the building may be a little challenging, and we’re just not to that point yet.”

Rodman said that there were staff members, and a family, in the building when the sprinkler system burst, but no one was hurt. They’re reaching out to all the families they’re currently serving, to let them know about changes to expect.”

The Sunflower House is also asking people and agencies that regularly donate items to curb those donations for the time being, because there’s no place to store donations.

Those items include snacks for families who come to the building, and the teddy bears that are given to each child who completes a forensic interview.