Nearly a dozen people potentially exposed to a hazardous materia - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

Nearly a dozen people potentially exposed to a hazardous material

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JEFFERSON CO., Ill. -- Eleven people, mostly first responders, are recovering Thursday evening after being rushed to Good Samaritan Hospital in Mt. Vernon for potential exposure to a hazardous material. At this time, investigators have yet to confirm what the substance was. 

It all started around 10 a.m. when Litton Ambulance Service and the Waltonville Fire Department were called to a residence near the intersection of state Route 148 and Nason road for an unresponsive person.

While treating the patient in the ambulance, the medic and driver started feeling sick and had to pull over and call for help. At that time, Jefferson County deputies and additional Waltonville firefighters responded. They also ended up sick.

That's when the Mt. Vernon Fire Department's Hazmat team came to perform a gross decontamination due to an unknown harmful substance. The safety routine involves stripping those exposed of their clothing and washing them down. The hazmat crew then gave the victims paper gowns and drove them to the Good Samaritan hospital in other emergency vehicles provided by Litton Ambulance Service. 

Randy Schorfheide, Regional Manger of Marketing & Communications at Good Samaritan, says the hospital was contacted by emergency personnel around 11:30 a.m. about a hazardous material exposure event.

"Whenever that happens our incident command phase 1 was activated," Schorfheide explains. "That puts in the process our Emergency Preparedness plan."

However, it was quickly elevated to a phase 3 because of the number of victims potentially exposed. Upon arrival to the hospital, staff perform their own decontamination in a designated area.

"Whether it's a shower or other steps are taken, to make sure they are no longer what's considered dirty," Schorfheide says. 

In addition to the eight emergency personnel and the unresponsive patient, a woman and child who were initially at the residence when EMTs arrived drove themselves to the hospital for decontamination. 

The hospital says four patients, who are in stable condition, will remain for observation. Meanwhile, the Jefferson County Sheriff's department has launched an investigation.

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