Safety

Hazmat scare prompts ED evacuation near Maryland military base

Hospital Safety Insider, May 4, 2017

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An ED in Frederick, Md., spent several hours in lockdown Tuesday afternoon after two patients complained of minor burning and trouble breathing.

The two men, who live nearby, began experiencing symptoms when they opened a suspicious package delivered to their home. The men then brought the package to Frederick Memorial Hospital with them, prompting the hazmat response.

Lt. Clark Pennington, commander of the Criminal Investigations Unit of the Frederick Police Department, said the hospital followed protocol in notifying county emergency services, The Frederick News-Post reported. The ED was closed to new patients for about three hours, with ambulances diverting to other facilities in the region. Patients already inside were moved away from the two men.

A hazmat team came to establish a decontamination tent in the ED, but the suspicious package was found to contain “a common household chemical,” the News-Post reported, citing Frederick County Deputy Fire Chief Chip Jewell.

“We will do a follow-up. There is always a secondary verification, but at least at this time, the chemical poses no additional hazard,” Jewell told reporters Tuesday.

Hospital spokesperson Melissa Lambdin told a number of local news outlets that normal operations had resumed at the hospital after it became clear that the hazard was well under control.

“We know that the condition of the patients did not get any worse,” Lambdin told Fox 5. “They have been treated and we know that the nurse who stayed with them and treated them did not have any problems, any issues.”

The Military Road home where the package was opened is near the U.S. Army’s Fort Detrick, but authorities said the residents were not in military service.

Pennington said police would work with the U.S. Postal Service to try to track down the source of the package as their investigation continues.

"At this point we're going to do further interviews with them to try to determine if there is any criminality and also get more understanding on what they believe happened to them," Pennington said.



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