News Brief: Chemistry experiment causes schoolwide evacuation

Jocelyn Brossia

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Around 8:45 a.m. during first period this morning, a call went out over the intercom informing staff and students to follow their school-issued evacuation plan/route. Each teacher led students to calmly exiting their classrooms. Shortly after, the school learned this was due to a smoke alarm triggered in one of the classrooms. Each class was released to resume their class after five minutes outside.

Science teacher Emily Hunt was conducting a lab with her first period chemistry class when the incident occurred. The lab was designed to test the results of different ionic compounds when burned. To achieve this, students held wooden popsicle sticks dipped in liquid compounds over a Bunsen burner. Hunt said a group of students held the sticks over the burner for a prolonged amount of time “so the Popsicle sticks themselves caught on fire, producing some smoke.”

Hunt learned there was an issue with a new ventilation system in her classroom: “unless I run the air conditioning, [..] the air was not circulating properly and that caused the fire alarm to be set off.”

She also mentioned that her classroom was not originally designed to be a lab, resulting in gas valves where they shouldn’t normally be. She suggests a fume hood like one might have hovering over their oven at home.

To prevent an incident like this from happening in the near future, Hunt plans on performing the experiment as a demonstration for her remaining classes today and tomorrow. This comes as a disappointment to Hunt because she “wants her students to have hands-on experiences, but [she] can’t distract the entire school day for all the classes.”

Although the fire alarm went off in Hunt’s classroom, the rest of campus was notified via intercom rather than the fire alarm. Hunt said that “the fire alarm wasn’t very loud, so […] other students and other teachers didn’t know what was happening, so the evacuation could have been more quick if it would have been louder.”

Claire Renar ‘19, a student in Hunt’s first period chemistry class, said the classroom had a calm reaction, as “everyone just kind of laughed [the fire] off.”

Despite the light humor Renar said her class felt, she believes that because “fires can happen at any moment, […] people should be more alert when they happen and take it more seriously.”

 

Note: Abby Souwine contributed to the reporting of this article.

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