Carbon Monoxide Fumes Lead to the Evacuation of Head Start Students & Teachers
Oct 4, 2023—Klamath Falls, Oregon. Yesterday, Oct. 3rd, just after 11 am, carbon monoxide (CO) alarms sounded inside at the Hyperbaric Oxygen Treatment Center (HOTC) of Southern Oregon and Klamath Falls Head Start (KFHS), located in the Town & Country Shopping Center, at 3810 South Sixth Street.
The source of the Carbon Monoxide (CO) fumes was found to have originated from a malfunctioning propane floor stripping machine located in a construction zone adjacent to the HOTC and KFHS suites.
The fire department found dangerously high levels of CO in the construction zone and lower levels in the neighboring suites. All students, teachers and personnel were safely evacuated from the exposed areas.
“They couldn’t have picked a better place to be surviving victims of carbon monoxide poisoning, than to be right next door to our Hyperbaric Oxygen Treatment Center” says Andrea Moore, the PA at the HOTC. “We are the only medical grade hyperbaric treatment center in The Basin available to provide this level of care needed for CO poisonings. And our service would not even have been available a few months ago.”
Dr. Monte Stewart, who owns Hyperbaric Oxygen Treatment Center (HOTC) of Southern Oregon immediately instructed his staff to offer free treatments to any student, teacher or contractor who had been exposed to carbon monoxide and showing symptoms of poisoning at this site. “These are our neighbors, and we are all in this together,” he said.
After the CO levels in the Hyperbaric Oxygen Treatment Center dropped, two neighboring workers were treated at the HOTC for CO poisoning symptoms (headaches, weakness and palpitations). Both patient’s symptoms were substantially improved by the end of their treatments.
Unfortunately, a lot of communities don’t have access to hyperbaric chamber technology or therapy. Since July 21st, 2023, Klamath Falls is blessed to have a medical grade, hard chamber, inside the Hyperbaric Oxygen Treatment Center of Southern Oregon (The Center). The Center is a great complement to the existing medical care already offered in the Klamath Falls Basin.
Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) is an effective approved therapy for numerous illnesses and conditions. Some of the more recognizable illnesses that have been successfully treated by HBOT include: Radiation Tissue Damage, Diabetic Lower Extremity Wounds, and Non-healing wounds/Failed Skin Grafts and Flaps. The common denominator in these conditions is hypoxia or lack of oxygen to the tissues. HBOT reduces swelling while flooding the tissue with oxygen. The elevated pressure in the chamber increases the amount of oxygen in the blood and helps deliver oxygen to the oxygen-starved tissues.
For a detailed list of conditions treated by HBOT, visit: https://oregonhbot.com/conditions/
For more details about this incident and CO poisonings, continue reading below:
“I was removing a patient from the oxygen chamber when I heard the alarm,” said Eileen Lacy, Hyperbaric Oxygen Technician. “When I checked the panel in the compressor room, I saw it was the carbon monoxide alarm. Our physician assistant (PA), Andrea Moore immediately called Tim James, HOTC’s Safety Director in Medford, Oregon to troubleshoot.”
James initially recommended looking for potential sources of carbon monoxide and troubleshooting to see if the alarm cleared after running the chamber. Lacy opened up the front door to ventilate as the patient exited.
While trying to find the source of the alarm, contractors who were doing remodeling in the neighboring store front were told about the alarm and they asked “What are symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning?”
Moore quickly screened for symptoms as CO poisoning must be treated as medical emergency. Its main symptoms are headache, nausea, dizziness, vomiting, weakness, chest pain and confusion. More severe CO poisoning leads to loss of consciousness and death.
Tanner Hargett, an employee with Alpine Abatement Associates explained that four workers were doing asbestos abatement in Suite 220 using a propane-run machine they’d never used indoors in such a small space before.
“We stayed out of the building as much as possible and the next thing we know is a couple of fire trucks pull up and they go right to the Klamath Family Head Start (KFHS) which is two doors down from us in our strip mall,” Andrea Moore said. “First responders evacuated the children to an outdoor playground and parents were called to pick up their children…The carbon monoxide detectors at KFHS were going off…they were detecting some pretty high levels up to 50 parts per million in some of the classrooms and at that time I got really alarmed!”
Carbon monoxide poisoning is caused by exposure to a colorless, odorless gas known as carbon monoxide (CO). CO is found in combustion fumes such as vehicle exhaust, wood stoves, and other fuel burning appliances, smoke from a fire, nonelectric heaters, malfunctioning gas appliances, and faulty heating exhaust systems. CO, known as the silent killer, displaces the oxygen in the bloodstream when the CO is mixed in with normal air you breathe. Everyone is at risk for CO poisoning from these fumes, especially during the winter months when there is poor ventilation indoors.
Moore warned the restaurant owners to the right of HOTC saying, “Hey, we’re having trouble in the mall with carbon monoxide so make sure your fans are running and open the back door to ventilate the place.”
The fire fighter medics checked out the contractors and found several who had high blood pressures and were experiencing headaches. Carbon monoxide levels at the work site were 127 parts per million, which is very, very dangerous.
Tanner Hargett, a contractor who was briefly exposed to the fumes, explained, “We have four floor stripping machines, and today, thanks to alarms in the neighboring school and HOTC, we discovered that one machine, which we’d trailered down from Salem, Oregon, didn’t have a carbon monoxide detector on it. I had to leave to run some errands so I was only exposed for about 10 minutes, unlike the other guys working at the site. When the machine malfunctioned, the site ventilation setup we had in place simply wasn’t adequate to keep us safe.”
Klamath County Fire Department #1 tagged the faulty machine, intended for outdoor use only, for immediate removal from the job site.
As the fire department continued evaluating employees and students for CO poisoning, Andrea Moore, the physician assistant at HOTC, assisted and spoke with the EMTs. Four workers were exposed to high CO levels. After the CO levels in the Hyperbaric Oxygen Treatment Center dropped, one worker with headache and weakness and another worker with severe headache, palpitations and weakness were treated in the state-of-the-art hyperbaric oxygen chamber.
“All those who were exposed to CO at the Klamath Fall’s Town & Country Shopping Center were treated free-of-charge,” says Dr. Monte Stewart.
Although many people with CO poisoning can be revived without hyperbaric oxygen therapy, long-term damage from CO poisoning can include harm to the central nervous system and the cardiovascular system. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy research has shown that it can treat many conditions that involve oxygen-starved tissues. Several studies have shown that under certain conditions, hyperbaric oxygen therapy can cut the risk for brain injury and nerve damage. And relief of minor symptoms is more immediate.
Through this unexpected incident, the new Hyperbaric Oxygen Treatment Center of Southern Oregon in Klamath Falls had the privilege of being able to immediately provide the best recommended treatment of choice for carbon monoxide poisoning.
Yesterday was an important reminder to check and make sure we all having working CO detectors in our homes and work places.
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