When senior Meg Waterman woke up Wednesday morning, she plugged a string of lights into her Coles Tower bedroom expecting illumination. Instead, she received sparks, second-degree burns to her hand, and visits with campus security, facilities, and medical personnel.

"Basically, flames came out, sparks shot up, and there was a really loud popping noise," she said. "The wall burned and charred, pieces of it were on fire and fell down, burning the rug below it?I was concerned it would catch flames. Then I realized I had also burned my hand, my forefinger and thumb were completely blackened."

The incident woke up her roommate next door, who contacted Dudley Coe Health Center and found someone from housekeeping to call facilities and security. Soon, a security officer arrived to bring her to the health center, commenting on what a "shocking experience" it must have been.

After a brief check-in with the health center, Waterman's roommate brought her to Parkview Adventist Medical Center to check for entry and exit wounds from the electricity, treat the local burns, and run some tests to ensure that the electrical shock did not cause a cardiac dysrhythmia or disrupt her heart. Waterman said she received second-degree burns to her forefinger and thumb, which will be redressed daily at the health center and heal in about three weeks.

Manager of Environmental Health and Safety Mark Fisher said that Life Safety Technician Jim Graves and Electrician Gary Flood were sent to investigate the incident right away. He said that an arc flash occurred at the outlet, which happens when there is a non-grounded electrical contact. Fisher said it is likely that Waterman was touching the metal electrical plate and the metal contacts of the plug, which created a ground and went through her hand.

Fisher compared the situation to touching both plugs on a car battery and creating a spark, except that there was electrical current running when Waterman tried to plug her lights in.

"It's really a pure accident, she just happened to touch the wrong thing in the wrong way," he said. "It caused a good-sized flash, we're fortunate that there was no fire and glad the injury wasn't worse than it was."

In response, facilities replaced the burned wall unit, checked the rest of the outlets in the Tower apartment, reset the breakers, and tested the circuits. "We're going to go ahead and look at some of the other units, but this is an isolated incident as far as I'm concerned," he added.

Waterman said that the College "responded really well to the whole situation," checking on her status, offering support, and checking the room quickly. Nonetheless, Waterman said she will not be using the outlet for a while.

"It was a really scary thing," she said. "How many times do you plug something in during a day without thinking about it?"