Hazmat call prompts 911 call center evacuation

(SAVANNAH) The workweek starts with an evacuation of the very room where emergency calls are answered in Chatham County. A hazardous materials situation gets the blame for emptying the Emergency Communications Center in Savannah Monday morning. Savannah firefighters responded to the county facility just before 9:30 a.m. when communications personnel started complaining about eye, nose and throat irritations. 14 personnel were treated by emergency medical personnel on scene. Two of the individuals were transported to St. Joseph’s/Candler Hospital for further evaluation.

A suspected leak in the fire suppression system of the communications center forced the evacuation this morning of the Chatham County Annex at 295 Police Memorial Dr. Savannah Fire and Emergency Services(SFES) Hazmat crews entered the building and isolated the irritant to the fire suppression system. The chemical, Heptaflouropropane, is a compressed gas that is used to suppress fires in electronic equipment. “It’s a irritant, causes some throat, eye irritation, uh, we had a couple people, uh, that actually got nauseous.” said Mark Keller, Public Information Officer for SFES.

The Annex houses more than the 911 Call Center, scores of government employees work there. ” This is a fully functional, um, police precinct, so we have police officers in and out of the building. We have civilian staff, such as clerical staff, um that work in this building as well. the Chatham County TAG office is housed here, and again, our emergency communications center staff is housed in this building as well.” said Eunicia Baker, a public information officer for the Savannah-Chatham Metro Police Department.

The evacuation did not leave Chatham County without vital emergency communication abilities. “At no time was communication lost with police officers or members of the public attempting to contact 9-1-1.” Baker said. ” It went very well this morning, once it was identified that was the area, and those were the personnel that were involved. Immediately, communications personnel went to the civic center to the ECC and as soon as they got there they were able to turn that system on over there and transfer everything over.” Keller said. The annex reopened Monday evening after issues with the fire suppression unit were addressed.

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