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Student Causes Accidental Sprinkler Discharge in SFSU Residence Hall

There's something about a sprinkler head in a residence hall that prompts a student every now and then to try to use it to hang clothes, hangers, decorations, or even a hammock. To seasoned housing and residence life professionals, this situation is all too familiar. Before the student can even realize they're using the sprinkler head for the wrong reason, they discharge and create major water damage in the residence halls.

Sprinklers Discharge in Residence Halls During Winter Break

Michael Beatty, Risk Manager at San Francisco State University received a call about water damage in one of the campus' housing units in January 2022. He quickly learned that a student hung a dress from the sprinkler head, which caused it to discharge, he said. SF State has been a GradGuard partner since 2015 and knew to call university police to have a police report on hand for insurance claims. 

"My first call was over to Steve Fucci at GradGuard," Beatty said. "And I said, 'Steve, I hate to do this to you, but we have a pretty significant loss."

Water was everywhere and a total of nine units were affected. There weren't a lot of students on campus because it was still winter break, although a lot of their belongings were still in their residence halls. Essentially all of the students' personal belongings were damaged due to the water, Beatty said. 

The loss totaled around $190,000. But GradGuard helped take some of the financial burdens off of the student and the school.

"GradGuard came to the rescue."

Since 2019, SF State includes personal liability coverage as a benefit for all residents living on-campus. January's water event was the first big one of its kind since December 2019, according to Beatty. He says university housing had experienced a number of them in the years before that.

"We were seeing a lot of these, and that's when we decided we needed to try to find some alternate solution," Beatty said. "And that's when GradGuard came and helped us out. And we did go two or three years without any, but then lo and behold, here we go." 

Prior to working with GradGuard, SFSU would tell students that renters insurance was a requirement for living on campus. But Beatty said the staff didn't have the bandwidth to administer and verify that, so when losses would occur, they discovered there was no coverage in place. 

Housing at SFSU is a self-support unit and significant claims eat at their budget, Beatty says. If a couple of major losses happen, and students didn't have coverage, that impacts resources dedicated to major events including move-in. 

"It just got to the point where I was able to actually get housing to agree that we're just going to build this into their costs," Beatty said. "They got tired of it, their budget got tired of it, their finance people got tired of it, and GradGuard came to the rescue."

In the case of the $190,000 claim, GradGuard's built-in liability coverage for campus residents took care of $100,000, which is the coverage limit. 

The affected students didn't have property coverage, according to Beatty. SFSU's housing department ended up taking on the cost of replacing the affected students' damaged property. 

"The $100,000 from GradGuard significantly helped housing assume all of those costs," Beatty said. "Instead of burdening the student that caused the damage, we're going to take care of this for her."


Sprinklers accidentally discharging in residence halls can happen from time to time. When they do, working with GradGuard can help make the cleanup and restoration process a little bit easier for both the students and the school.

Beatty says, GradGuard quickly got him and everyone at SFSU involved in the claim in touch with the claim adjusters at Markel, moving the process along.

"This was the first claim that we've had, and I was just really impressed with both how easily and professionally it was resolved," Beatty said. "It was fantastic, no complaints. Glad we have it."

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