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Refrigerant Leak Triggers Fire Suppression System at Arkansas Senate House Session

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Computer-room mishap shuts down Senate’s day

By Michael R. Wickline for Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette

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Computer-room problems Tuesday afternoon sent the Arkansas Senate home early and interrupted the House’s session.

The Senate canceled two committee meetings that originally were to be held once its daily session ended. The House stopped its session, held committee meetings, and then resumed its session when computers came back up.

Both are now off the rest of the week, a break coinciding with schools’ spring breaks. The legislative session resumes Monday.

The computer problem originally was thought to be a fire in the server room, but actually was a refrigerant leak.

Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin, who presides over the Senate, told senators about the server room problem.

“But the bottom line is the server outside this building had a meltdown and it is going to take a while for the backup server to start working,” Griffin said. “We are not exactly sure how long, but we can’t do anything in terms of computers. … It could be a while.”

Then Senate President Pro Tempore Jimmy Hickey, R-Texarkana, said, “Unless this body objects as a whole, I would say that what we need to do is just go ahead and leave, not have our committee meetings.

“We’ll just transfer everything to the calendar when we come back on Monday,” he said in an announcement that drew applause from some senators.

Bureau of Legislative Research Director Marty Garrity said Tuesday afternoon, “While we initially thought it was a fire, it does not appear that there was a fire.

“We believe that there was a [refrigerant] leak in one of the air conditioning units which caused the fire suppression system to activate,” she said in a written statement. “When the fire suppression system activated, it caused the servers to shut down.”

The server shutdown affected the operations of the House and the Senate voting systems, programs, email and other functions, she said. She said it took the bureau “about 1½ hours to get the servers back up.”

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