Be wise. Be brave. Be tricky. (slithytove) wrote,
Be wise. Be brave. Be tricky.
slithytove

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Hazmat tonight

I drove into work tonight (I work 10 pm to 7 am on weekends), to find my hospital surrounded by firetrucks and ambulances. A patient smoking in the bathroom or a nurse microwaving popcorn set off a smoke detector? These happen all the time.

But this was a much bigger deal than usual. Hospital cordoned off by yellow plastic "Police Line Do Not Cross" tape. Dozens of firemen in full gear milling around. Hazmat vehicles. A support vehicle that looked like the spawn of a mating of an Airstream motorhome and the Oscar Meyer hot dog truck. Beside it, a twenty-foot table of water and Gatorade jugs, and a guy in an apron at a gas-fired grill. WTF?

There was a hazmat event in my ER this evening. Details from the outside are sketchy, but it seems that someone drank pesticide, then came to ER, vomited, and died. Now there's pesticide vomit on the floor, and perhaps on the ER personnel who tried to resuscitate the patient.

Disaster protocol was initiated, resulting in a three-ring Hazmat circus. The ER is sealed off. No one allowed in or out. All staff are being decontaminated. I caught a glimpse of some miserable-looking nurses huddled beneath wet sheets.

They won't allow me into the ER, so I went home. Best guess is at least a couple of hours before decontamination is complete, and an outside firm (!) comes in, certifies the place as safe, the current staff are allowed out, and I'm allowed in.

The whole thing is curious. Most pesticides just aren't that dangerous. Unless you drink them, of course. (Drinking pesticide is a fairly common means of suicide in the developing world.) But on the floor? Nope. However, many pesticides work on the same principle as nerve gas, and there some pesticides used by farmers (generally not available at your local garden shop) that are dangerous even with brief skin exposure. Maybe they thought it was one of those. Maybe it *was* one of those. Maybe they just didn't know, and the Precautionary Principle kicked in.

I had never seen a full-bore Hazmat Op before. Impressive. Lots of flashing lights and people in colorful costumes.
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