A hazmat team out of Waco was dispatched to an area business in the Fairfield Industrial Park on Thursday morning, August 31, 2017 following reports of employees getting sick after inhaling a black powder while unloading freight from an 18-wheeler at the business.
The initial call came in to Freestone County Dispatch shortly after 8:00 a.m. that morning; the caller stating that nine employees from the business had been received at Freestone Medical Center (FMC) and hospital personnel were concerned of a possible hazmat situation.
FMC Chief Nursing Officer Nicki Hagen states, “The first two patients arrived to the Emergency Room exhibiting nausea, vomiting, and respiratory issues. A Code Yellow was called and the patients were escorted outside where decontamination procedures began.”
The ER Lobby was temporarily closed until housekeeping completed cleaning and decontamination.
During that time, new patients were directed through the East entrance to avoid possible contact.
The hospital was soon notified of five more patients coming. They were each sent directly to the decontamination area to be treated.
Each patient was divested of all of their clothing and belongings.
During their five-hour stay, FMC furnished pizza for the patients and acquired clothing for them to wear.
After inspecting the building and freight truck, Waco Hazmat was unable to determine any hazardous materials; however, they did find traces of the fine black powdered substance that came out of the truck. That material was tested, but did not indicate any hazards.
Waco Hazmat released all patients at approximately 1:40 p.m. with instructions to stay home and contact EMS for transport if symptoms returned.
FMC’s Emergency Room Manager Peggy Hughes complimented the business’s Plant Manager, who stayed with her employees as they waited to hear the outcome. “She was a champion,” says Hughes.
The business was considered clear of any hazardous material at 2:00 p.m.
FMC CEO Stace Holland says, “I’m very proud of our response to the situation. Everyone maintained great control and gave great care. Our team worked really well.”
Holland also remarked that the community should be proud of the hospital facilities, as well. “The layout worked well,” he says, adding that the ER was designed for handling such situations.
“The City of Fairfield appreciates the fine services provided by Waco, our local emergency responders, and the hospital,” says City Administrator Jeff Looney. “The Cooperation and coordination during this emergency situation were outstanding in every way.”
It’s important to note that the community was never at any risk.
First responders to the incident include Fairfield PD, Fairfield VFD, Fairfield EMS, Fairfield Public Works Department, and Freestone County Sheriff’s Office.