CO levels in Blanchard Elementary deemed safe after Thursday evacuation

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Blanchard Elementary in Cape Girardeau was evacuated for more than an hour Thursday morning after carbon monoxide was detected in the building.

The source of the carbon monoxide has not yet been found, according to school officials and the Cape Girardeau Fire Department.

Cape Girardeau School District assistant superintendent Neil Glass said students left the building quickly when an alarm sounded on a carbon monoxide detector around 10 a.m. Glass said no students or staff that he was aware of experienced symptoms of carbon monoxide exposure.

Fire marshal Brian Shaffer said readings on fire department monitors showed the amount of carbon monoxide in some parts of the building at 200 parts per million parts of air when crews inspected the building during the evacuation.

"It's definitely not something you would want to stay in for long," Shaffer said.

The permissible exposure limit for carbon monoxide according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is 50 parts per million parts of air as an eight-hour, time-weighted average concentration.

Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas that can be toxic to the point of causing death if inhaled in a high concentration. Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include headache, dizziness, fatigue and nausea, which can sometimes be mistaken for symptoms of other common sicknesses.

Battalion chief Mark Hasheider said carbon monoxide was not found in the air throughout the school, but there were some areas that prompted concern.

Shaffer said the school acted appropriately by quickly evacuating the building. Crews used ventilation fans to clear the structure and checked air levels again before students were allowed back in around 11:15 a.m.

School officials told the fire department the school's heating system was not in use at the time of the detection. Hasheider said heating systems are the most common source of carbon monoxide inside buildings.

Glass said some adjustments were made to equipment in the school's furnace room and HVAC system Thursday, including closing doors to the school's furnace room, which are supposed to stay shut at all times, replacing a sewer cap in the room and adjusting air recovery units on the school's roof. Those changes may have corrected the issues that led to the incident, he said. Exhaust from a bus parked near a door that morning was another possible source of the gas, according to Hasheider.

The fire department returned Friday to monitor the air and found no carbon monoxide. Hasheider said the department will also return Monday morning to check the building, as well as days this week if deemed necessary.

School officials and the fire department said the incident is not related to any repair work done since December, when several rooms were damaged in an overnight fire.

eragan@semissourian.com

388-3627

Pertinent address:

1829 N. Sprigg St., Cape Girardeau, MO

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