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EVACUATIONS UPDATE: Roofing Work Fumes in Loma Linda U Medical Center

Tar-smelling fumes entered the hospital ventilation system about 10:30 a.m. Oct. 18, Loma Linda Fire Marshal James Gray said outside the emergency room.

Update 5:26 p.m. Hospital administrators declared an "all clear" for the entire Loma Linda University Medical Center facility just after 5 p.m., LLUMC spokesman Herbert Atienza said in a phone interview.

"We expect the emergency room will be back to normal operations shortly," Atienza said.

Loma Linda Universty Medical Center stopped accepting emergency room patients during the hazardous materials response to roofing work fumes that entered the hospital's ventilation system about 10:30 a.m. Thursday.

Temporary evacuations of more than 35 ER patients were lifted before 3 p.m., a Loma Linda fire marshal said.

Update 4:46 p.m. More than 35 emergency room patients were moved outside Loma Linda University Medical Center's ER Thursday when roofing work fumes prompted a hazardous materials response and temporary evacuations, Loma Linda fire and hospital officials said.

An all-clear was declared about 2:45 p.m. by county haz mat crews and patients were returned to the ER, a fire marshal said. Hospital staff inside were still assessing the situation, LLUMC spokesman Herbert Atienza said.

"This morning at about 10:30, quarter to 11, we were dispatched for an inside investigation of a smell they had at the hospital," Loma Linda Fire Marshal James Gray said outside the ER.

"We got here and we were advised a construction crew doing a regular repair was on the roof, spreading an adhesive on the roof to do the repair," Gray said. "Unfortunately the off gases got into the duct system . . . and it was drawn down into the center part of the hospital."

Firefighters called for county hazardous materials personnel with air monitoring devices, Gray said.

"People were complaining of dizziness, blurred vision, headache-type symptoms, some nausea," Gray said. "So the decision was made to . . . do patient relocation from the emergency room to the parking lot here, the open area parking lot in a triage-type arrangement.

"There was a total of 38 patients relocated from the emergency room internally to an outside surge unit tent. Of those nine were transported, none specifically as a result of the smell of the fumes that were in the facility."

The nine patients who were transported to other local hospitals, including Arrowhead Regional Medical Center in Colton, were taken for treatment of pre-existing conditions not related to the fumes, Gray emphasized.

"Once we got clearance from the county haz mat people with their monitoring devices, as you can see now the patients have been allowed to be taken back into the emergency room. . . . it was about a quarter to three.

"The county haz mat people have given us an all clear," Gray said. "There might be some small remnants of smell but the actual monitoring devices of fumes show a safe, normal range."

School of Nursing student Jeffrey Schall said he was working on the fifth floor in the Acute Care Pediatrics Unit, where infants and toddlers are treated. They did not have to evacuate but masks were distributed, Schall said.

"We just started smelling this foul smell," Schall said. "Some people could smell it before I did. Another nurse came in and distributed masks. . . . They were N95 masks, approved for particles.

"We were told that we needed to stay on the unit we were working in," Schall said. "We were working with patients and they were allowed to stay too."

Tony Yang, assistant vice president for public affairs for Loma Linda University Medical Center, issued a statement for the hospital Thursday afternoon. It included the following:

"At approximately 10:30 am today, workers were spraying roofing adhesive material as part of roof repair. A small amount of that material passed into the intake ventilation system. A short time later, we were alerted of an odor inside the hospital.

"The affected areas were the main Medical Center operating room, emergency department, and the lobby level. So far, we have had a partial patient and staff relocation in the ED and are currently assessing other areas. B level and floors 2, through 5 have been cleared by the Fire Department. Children's Hospital is not effected.

"Thirty-eight patients have been re-located from the emergency department to other sites within the hospital that have been determined to be safe. Nine patients have been evacuated to other hospitals, but not as a result of this incident. Four people have been evacuated to Urgent Care.

"Our highest priority is the safety of our patients, visitors and employees. As such, we’re taking every step to ensure that everyone is safe. So far we don't have any reports of any injuries to patients."

Posted 2:46 p.m. Fumes from roofing work at Loma Linda University Medical Center were drawn into the hospital ventilation system Thursday, prompting evacuation of some patients, according to Loma Linda city and fire officials.

"They've been internally relocated in the hospital," Konrad Bolowich, Loma Linda assistant city manager, said in a phone interview. "In other other words they have not been moved outside the building."

Tar-smelling fumes entered the hospital ventilation system around noon, said Bolowich, who has been in touch with Loma Linda Fire Chief Jeff Bender for updates.

"They were doing some roofing work up there and the tar smell was sucked into hospital vents," Bolowich said.

Loma Linda University Medical Center is billed as home to the only Level 1 trauma center in San Bernardino, Riverside, Inyo, and Mono counties, which cover more than 40,000 square miles in Southern California. Loma Linda University Medical Center handles more than 30,000 inpatients and 500,000 outpatient visits a year.

Stay with Redlands-Loma Linda Patch for more on this developing story.

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