18 People Hospitalized after Falling Ill at Texas Call Center

More than 200 were evacuated after being exposed to a chemical


 
 

Adriana M. Chávez, El Paso Times | | Tuesday, August 21, 2012


EL PASO, Texas -- Eighteen people were taken to two area hospitals and more than 200 were evacuated from a call center in West El Paso after being exposed to a non-toxic chemical Monday morning.

Sixteen patients were transported to Providence Memorial Hospital and two others were taken to Sierra Medical Center, said Dr. Kenneth Berumen, network director for emergency medicine for the Sierra Providence Health Network.

Although hospital officials could not disclose the condition of the patients, treatment consisted of decontamination of the eyes and lungs, Berumen said.

"Most complaints had to deal with the lungs, cough, shortness of breath and tightness in the chest," he said.

Just after 11 a.m., fire and emergency crews responded to reports of a strange odor at Redcats USA, 500 S. Mesa Hills Drive. The company is an online and catalogue retailer of plus-size clothes, home and lifestyle products, sporting goods and outdoor gear, according to its website.

An outside vendor was testing the fire suppression system and accidentally set it off, releasing the chemical potassium salt, a dry non-toxic extinguishing agent, said George De La Torre, a spokesman for El Paso Fire Department.

The chemical spread building wide through the heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system, De La Torre said.

Exposure to the chemical caused irritation in the eyes and discomfort in the respiratory systems of the patients, Berumen said.

De La Torre said four Sun Metro buses provided shelter to the employees who were evacuated as fire crews ventilated the building for several hours.

At about 3 p.m., firefighters cleared the scene and employees were allowed to re-enter the building. About 10 units, 30 firefighters and five private transport companies responded to the scene, De La Torre said.

What occurred at Redcats USA on Monday is something that could easily happen at any facility, Berumen said.

People are exposed to many chemicals, some of which are simply irritants, in most workplaces, he said.

"It's essential that every workplace have somebody who knows what the toxic chemicals are in their workplace," he said.

It is recommended that people who are exposed to chemicals stay at the scene until they have been evaluated by paramedics, Berumen said.

"You don't want to get into your car if you have been contaminated; you can contaminate your vehicle, the person who is driving your car and other people along the way," he said. "It's best to stick around, be evaluated by the EMS system, and they will help you get transported to the proper facility."



Copyright © 2013 LexisNexis, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. Terms and Conditions | Privacy Policy


Connect: Have a thought or feedback about this? Add your comment now
Related Topics: News, chemical exposure, evacuation

What's Your Take? Comment Now ...

Featured Careers & Jobs in EMS





 

Get JEMS in Your Inbox

 

Fire EMS Blogs


Blogger Browser

Today's Featured Posts

 

EMS Airway Clinic

Simulation-Based Assessment Facilitates Learning & Enhances Clinical Judgment

Simulation is an educational tool that can be used to develop and refine clinical skills of the student in a controlled environment before they progress to becoming practicing clinicians.
More >

Multimedia Thumb

Colorado Medics Ditch Pants for Kilts

“Real men do wear kilts.”
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

NYC September 11 Commemoration

Tolling of the bell begins the anniversary ceremony.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

Wrong Fuel Cited in New Mexico Air Ambulance Crash

Plane received jet fuel instead of aviation fuel.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

Wake County EMS PAT

Physical ability test demonstration.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

CO Leak at Illinois School

Girard incident sends over 130 to hospitals.
More >


Multimedia Thumb

Hands On September 2014

Who gets thumbs up this month?
More >


Multimedia Thumb

NYC Sept. 11 Anniversary

View images from the ceremony at Ground Zero.
More >


Multimedia Thumb

VividTrac offered by Vivid Medical - EMS Today 2013

VividTrac, affordable high performance video intubation device.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

Braun Ambulances' EZ Door Forward

Helps to create a safer ambulance module.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

Field Bridge Xpress ePCR on iPad, Android, Kindle Fire

Sneak peek of customizable run forms & more.
Watch It >


More Product Videos >