Principal Matt Hubbard said the evacuation was done shortly after 9 as a precautionary measure because a strong smell in the building was believed to possibly be natural gas.
“Whenever anything like that happens, we’re going to evacuate the building and test to make sure there’s not any gas actually in the building,” Hubbard said.
He said Fire Chief Matt Missildine and firefighters were on the scene by the time the last student was evacuated, and used gas detection equipment to determine there was no gas leak. Instead, it was suspected that the new building’s air handler drew an odor in from outside the building.
Sylacauga Police School Resource Officer Willie Kidd said the odor was possibly from the REEF wastewater treatment plant that’s being cleaned up by the Environmental Protection Agency a mile or so away.
Hubbard was pleased that it took only two or two and a half minutes to evacuate the building, and impressed with how quickly the fire department responded and sounded the all clear. In all, the evacuation lasted five to 10 minutes, Hubbard said, but “It seemed like forever.”
The start of the evacuation coincided with the start of a light rainfall as students huddled into Legion Stadium across Broadway Avenue from the main campus buildings.
While the evacuation was going on, a student was taken from the school by ambulance after suffering a possible seizure. Officials did not indicate that the seizure was related to the smell in the building.
“If you were driving by you would’ve seen an ambulance, paramedics coming in and out with a stretcher, a fire truck, police cars and the students leaving the building. If you didn’t know what was going on, I can see where it would’ve looked like something really bad was going on,” Hubbard said.