Methane in air briefly shuts emergency room

July 06, 1998|By Richard Irwin | Richard Irwin,SUN STAFF

Methane gas from a storm drain under Franklin Square Hospital in Rosedale sickened a nurse in the hospital's emergency room last night and forced the evacuation of about 50 patients, visitors and staff members, according to a Baltimore County Fire Department spokesman.

The gas entered the hospital building's ventilation system and caused people in the emergency room to experience breathing difficulties, Battalion Chief Mark Hubbard said.

Dr. Julie Casani, director of the hospital's emergency services, said a "code orange" emergency signal was activated, alerting the entire hospital staff and summoning the Fire Department.

Six ambulances, hazardous materials units and firefighters responded to the hospital, where staff members were moving emergency-room patients and visitors to areas not affected by the odor.

"The nurses gave us surgical masks to wear and ordered us to another part of the hospital as a precaution," said Diane K. Hamilton of Perry Hall, whose 80-year-old mother was being treated for heart problems when the alert was sounded.

Hubbard said firefighters shut down the hospital's ventilation system and went through the 405-bed hospital with meters measuring the air for dangerous fumes or odors.

"We found the source of the odor that made its way into the ER in the drain of a sink in an intensive care unit room and left it up to the hospital maintenance staff to fix it," Hubbard said.

Casani said the nurse who was sickened was treated at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center and was expected to have been released last night.

By 10 p.m., the hospital had resumed normal operations.

Pub Date: 7/06/98

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