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Finch Elementary Evacuated Due To Carbon Monoxide Leak

Finch Elementary School in SW Atlanta was evacuated early Monday morning.

Update: Finch students will be holding class at Kennedy Middle School on Tuesday, December 4th and Wednesday December 5th. Students should arrive at Finch Elementary as normal and buses will transport students to Kennedy for the day and back to Finch after school. The complete official details from APS.
A temporary boiler furnace will be put in place this week, and a more permanent replacement will be installed over the weekend.


Finch Elementary in southwest Atlanta was evacuated around 8:45am Monday, December 3rd.

According to WSB, Atlanta Firefighters reported a carbon monoxide reading of "17,000 parts per million, the highest levels the Fire Department has ever seen." (23-29 is a normal level) Their initial assessment is that a leak occurred in a furnace in the boiler room.

Atlanta Police taped off the area around the school and students were evacuated to Brown Middle School for the entire school day.

The potentially lethal amounts of carbon monoxide created such a scare that The Atlanta Public Schools Superintendant, Erroll Davis, called a press conference to ease concerns.  According to the conference, the boiler/furnace at Finch Elementary was up to date and had last been inspected in November of 2011. (by rule they must be checked every 2 years)

Stephanie Hon, assistant director of the Georgia Poison Center, told the Huffington Post that, "a carbon monoxide detector, if appropriately used and installed and checked often, could have very well been a warning for this school system."  Schools are not mandated to have carbon monoxide detectors, but after a scare like thisit may change minds.

As it stands, no one has been reported as serious ill, or suffering from long-term symptoms.  Parents began gathering at Finch soon after reports surfaced of the leak. Parents saw students and teachers being evacuated on stretchers and people being put into ambulances.  From there people moved to Brown Middle School and demanded to see their children.  There is cell phone footage on WSB of over a dozen parents outside Brown Middle yelling at police to let them see their child.  One parent can be heard saying, "you moved our kids without our permission, and now won't let us see our children?"

I visited the school late Monday afternoon at 4 p.m., but was not allowed to enter.  No fire trucks were still on the scene, though there were workers present trying to find and fix the leak in the boiler room.  The caution tape had been removed, and the only visual signs of the morning scare was a ball of used lab coats, gloves, oxygen masks and syringes that were left outside of the building. 

Parents were asked to pickup their students from Brown Middle School (at the end of the school day) if they normally would pick up their child from Finch Elementary.  If a child normally took the school bus home, buses returned them home as normal from Brown Middle School.  For children that normally walked home from Finch, the students were returned to outside of Finch where they were able to walk home as normal.

Cascade Patch has learned from the Atlanta Fire Department that at least 49 people were overcome by the carbon monoxide. According to the Atlanta Fire press release, "the school is attended by over 500 children. All of the children and faculty were initially evaluated on scene by AFRD personnel. 49 persons were transported by Grady EMS. 43 students transported to Hughes Spalding Children Hospital and the six (6) adults transported to Grady Memorial Hospital.
The remaining student body and faculty were bused to Brown Middle School."

CBS reports that the evacuation is due to a chemical leak.
11Alive
now says at least 49 people fainted due to carbon monoxide. More than 40 students had been taken to Hughes Spalding Children's Hospital.
WSB reports that that dozens fainted during the ordeal.
The AJC first reported via Twitter that HAZMAT teams were moving into the school, as police and faculty were evacuating the building.

Marc Richardson (Editor) December 04, 2012 at 12:06 AM
This situation could have been so much worse. Thank God that everyone lived and that the Fire Station is right next door, and the school was able to get immediate help once they knew they had a problem. But where were the Carbon Monoxide monitors? Shouldn't there be an alert when deadly gas is in the air?

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