Yesterday morning I received a call from a tenant in one of our buildings in Annapolis Junction. Another tenant in the same building had called the fire department because they thought the roof was failing. By the time I arrived on the scene the ladder truck from the Savage station was already on the scene.
The tenant had called the fire department when they noticed that some of the sprinkler heads had dropped down slightly from the suspended ceiling tiles. They were concerned that this indicated that the roof was sagging and it was in danger of collapse.
Actually, the roof was actually doing what it is designed to do. The structural steel of the building includes cambered beams which can drop slightly when excessive loads build up on the roof. Since the sprinkler pipes are often attached to these beams they will move with it.
Someone asked if we were going to send up a crew up on the roof to shovel off the snow. No, I answered. That actually risks doing more damage to the roof. The best thing to do is to make sure the roof drains and scuppers are clear so that as the snow melts the water has someplace to go. In this case, the drains and scuppers were clear and the water was draining as it was designed to do.
The county engineers came and took a look. They generally agreed that the roof was fine but still required the owner to bring in their own structural engineer to confirm that the building was indeed safe. After several hours of downtime during which the employees enjoyed a free lunch, the building returned to normal operations.
I can’t really blame the tenant for panicking after our governor went on TV and warned that there would likely be roof failures due to The Big Kahuna.
And there were a few roof collapses in the area, ironically at firehouses in Sykesville and Dundalk.