Police: Chemical Fumes at HS Caused by Improperly Ventilating Fume Hood

The confined chemical gas is what caused the Hightstown High School teacher to fall ill and the school to evacuate.

The Hightstown High School evacuation on Friday morning, which was prompted by a teacher feeling sick from fumes within the science lab, was caused by chemical fumes trapped within a fume hood that was not properly ventilating, according to Hightstown Police Director James LeTellier. 

Police and the Hightstown Fire Department responded to the scene at around 8:45 a.m. to check the area and help evacuate the school. Students were sent home early and three teachers were sent to Robert Wood Johnson Hospital in Hamilton, the one teacher who initially felt ill from the fumes and two others who complained of headaches as a result of the gas, according to police. 

West Windsor Township and Trenton Fire Department Hazardous Material Response Teams arrived at the school and determined that the chemical fumes were the result of a previous science experiment that had built up in a laboratory fume hood inside of the science lab. The haz-mat teams ascertained that the chemical gas had become trapped incise of the fume hood because it was not ventilating correctly, police said; the rest of the science lab and high school were not affected by the gas. 

Additionally, the East Windsor Fire Department, West Windsor Fire Department, Trenton FIre Department and hazmat teams from the Hamitlon Police Department responded to the scene along with Capital Health Emergency Medical Services, Cranbury, EMS, Monroe EMS, Princeton EMS, and Robbinsville EMS. 

AQ January 18, 2014 at 11:22 AM
I witnessed at least 25 students walking home through my neighborhood who truly are not "walkers". This was a potential liability to the district as under aged students were permitted to leave campus without being released to a legal guardian. Hopefully, none of these students came to any harm but the question remains as to why they were allowed to walk off of the HHS grounds. Seems like the district should be scheduling their next "in service" day for staff focusing on how to handle emergencies such as this. The level headed students were clearly disturbed by the lack of organization/execution of safety plans to protect them. Of course, the minor students who want to believe that they should be considered grown up enough to make their own decisions clearly do not understand the possible liability and lack of caring for their safety. Another point to be reviewed is how often these ventilation hoods are inspected. The staff was not trained or prepared to handle an event such as this and neither was the district. Incoming calls to the HHS main number went unanswered for well over an hour and a half when they should have been rerouted to Administrative Services if only for concerned parents to hear a message regarding the safety of their children. It appears that the staff who were transported to RWJ will be fine. How can incidents such as this be better handled in the future to protect our teachers, administrative staff, and our children?
JKHHS January 18, 2014 at 05:19 PM
As a student who was there, I can tell you that the teachers were the only ones who were trying to take control of the situation. They were the ones trying to keep us calm, get us to the bathroom, giving up their coats and handing out blankets to those who had no coats. I watched administrators walk right past teachers who were trying to get direction and information to pass on to the students. We practice these drills every year and this looked nothing like we were told to do. As far as kids walking off campus. The bus drivers who were at the bus building were telling kids to "just walk home if you live close" when we went in to use the bathroom. I think it is the principals who need the in service to figure out what to do in a crisis.


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