BEND, OR -- Elk Meadow Elementary in southwest Bend was evacuated, Wednesday morning, just as students were arriving at the school. Bend Fire Battalion Chief Dave Howe says the principal discovered a natural gas odor, at about 8:45 a.m. "She went to investigate, couldn’t find anything, got some other coworkers to come corroborate. There was a smell of gas inside and outside the building, so at that point they got the kids out; they were very organized. I think they did a great job."
Howe tells KBND News they later discovered there was no emergency, but he says it turned out to be a good drill for everyone, "Bend Fire and Cascade Natural Gas both arrived on scene, kids were already evacuated out on to the playground. They had some school buses there, so they loaded some of the younger kids into the school buses, just to keep them warm." He says when firefighters and Cascade Natural Gas arrived, just before 9, they could not find a leak or break in any gas lines, "It was probably just a little gas system ‘burp,’ that sometimes happens with those bigger systems and we found no readings of natural gas concentrations in the building. So, the kids were all back in the classroom by about 9:20."
Principal Kelle Hildebrandt and Assistant Principal Frank Hanson sent a letter to families, Wednesday, following the incident:
Elk Meadow Families,
This morning, prior to the start of school, our staff noticed what they believed to be the faint smell of natural gas in and around our building. Emergency responders investigated and deemed the smell a result of a gas ‘burp’. The Bend Fire Department says gas lines include a safety mechanism which blows out excess pressurized gas, resulting in a ‘burp’. Officials say that this issue was isolated to a single location and that there was no threat to students or staff as a result of the ‘burp’.
As emergency responders investigated the source of the smell, we used our evacuation protocol to move students and staff out of the building and to safe places. Our youngest students were boarded onto buses to keep them warm, while our older students moved to a play field a safe distance away.
All students and staff returned to class at about 9:20 a.m., after emergency responders deemed the school ready to re-enter. While today started with some excitement, we are already back into our daily groove and students and staff are having a great day.
All Bend-La Pine Schools, including Elk Meadow, practice evacuation/fire drills every month (ten a year). You might like to talk to your student tonight about what they learned during this event. This could be a good teachable moment and opportunity to talk about natural gas, your home fire alarms, your evacuation plans, or where you all will meet if you ever need to leave your home due to gas leak, fire, or another emergency.
Again, we want to thank our staff, students and volunteers who were inside the building before school for doing an amazing job of following our evacuation safety protocol. And a huge thank you to parents who showed great patience as we changed our drop off procedures during the event.
Thank you for your continued support of Elk Meadow Elementary School.