JOHNSTON, Iowa (AP) — Dozens of students were sent to hospitals Thursday after a building with high levels of carbon monoxide was evacuated at the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy in suburban Des Moines, officials said.
An overnight security officer detected a strong odor a little before 6 a.m., academy director Judy Bradshaw said. The officer contacted 911 and then used an intercom system to evacuate the 86 students, most of them sleeping.
Nearly 60 students with elevated blood levels of carbon monoxide were sent to six hospitals, and Bradshaw said other students who’d been exposed but displayed no symptoms were also taken to hospitals as a precaution. The unnamed security officer was taken as well.
Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include vomiting, headaches and dizziness, and high exposure can lead to death.
Johnson-Grimes Metropolitan Fire Department Chief Jim Clark said at a news conference that his firefighters found the highest level of carbon monoxide in the building basement. There were lower levels in the upper floors where students lived and attended classes during their training to become Iowa law enforcement officers. The academy sits on the grounds of Camp Dodge in Johnston.
Three ambulances carried a total of nine people with the highest carbon monoxide blood figures or severest symptoms to hospitals, Clark said. Because of the sheer number of students affected, he said, many were taken to hospitals in Des Moines Area Regional Transit buses.
It’s unclear so far how many — if any — of the students will remain in the hospitals. Also unclear is what caused the carbon monoxide buildup. Bradshaw said that, to her knowledge, the building didn’t have carbon monoxide monitors.
The building has been aired out but won’t be used until the problem’s been found and fixed, she said. The Iowa National Guard has arranged for classrooms and barracks space for students next week. Bradshaw canceled classes for Thursday and Friday.