Someone might want to look into the history of this. During 1955-1956 there was a fire in an (research?) organic laboratory on the top floor of the Chemistry Department at the University of Minnesota. The fire department arrived and used water, causing an explosion when the water reacted with sodium present. Considerable damage resulted and there may have been loss of life. I was teaching a freshman lab on probably the first floor. Power was lost but we told to stay in place that afternoon rather than evacuate.
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The Risk Management Committee at my college is revamping our "Emergency Protocol Guide" for campus. Regarding chemical spills, they have asked me what should be on the chart when there is a chemical spill.
One member suggested that when a large spill occurs, the person should pull the fire alarm. Even for a pretty nasty spill, I am uncomfortable with that recommendation. I am worried that
As a relatively new CHO, it seems to me that for chemical spills, the protocol would be to have a person call the FD if a chemistry professor determines that it is necessary.
In my teaching career, we have only had one nasty spill (boiling nitric acid spilled out of the hood and everyone started choking), which we mitigated by evacuating the lab and waiting until the lab ventilation system cleaned most of it out. Then we went in and mopped it up with bicarbonate.
I am interested in your thoughts, advice or experiences.
Associate Professor of Chemistry
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