On October 31, 2017 Holliston High School students were released for an early dismissal due to an emergency evacuation in response to the fire alarm and sprinkler systems being triggered.
According to a statement released by Holliston High School in an email to parents and guardians of HHS students, at approximately 8:55 AM, the sprinkler system went off following a controlled alcohol fire lit as a teacher demonstration in science teacher Ms. Rivera’s class, room 325.
All students in the school including those in Ms. Rivera’s room immediately evacuated.
As the sprinklers went off, the water reacted with a small amount of a separate chemical that was going to be used for a later demonstration. This reaction produced a very slight amount of non-toxic gas.
In an email sent to parents of her students, Ms. Rivera stated that the main office was immediately notified per emergency protocol, and once all students were safe outside, she reentered the building to remove all of the chemicals in her room that were to be used for later demonstrations.
“Out of abundance of caution and given the fact that this occurred in a chemistry lab, we considered all potential issues, including the possibility of chemicals reacting with the sprinkler water. As such, all relevant emergency personnel were notified. The building was reopened only when the authorities confirmed that there was no hazard,” wrote Ms. Rivera.
She also ensured that all “students and their belongings were not exposed to any toxic substances.”
The Holliston Fire Department and a HazMat team entered the building to assess the situation.
Once the gym and fieldhouse were cleared safe by the HFD, students and faculty were assembled in the field house while authorities assessed the rest of the main building.
According to Ms. Rivera, the HFD and a HazMat team were able to shut off the sprinklers and began testing each classroom in the school for any gas content. All rooms, including Ms. Rivera’s passed the testing.
Due to the water damage and the inability to properly check and ventilate the whole school prior to regularly scheduled dismissal, students were dismissed at 12:15.
At this time, the belongings of all students who were not in a class in the science wing at the time of the evacuation, were retrieved from within the school by the HFD and several faculty members, and were available for students to take home in the cafeteria.
Students were checked out one-by-one by administrators during dismissal to ensure that all students were accounted for.
The belongings of students in classrooms located in the science wing were available for pick up beginning at 2pm.
As a result of the sprinklers, many science classrooms experienced severe water damage. Ms. Rivera, Ms. Schmidt, and Mr. Levasseur’s rooms were filled with water that according to Mrs. Rivera was ankle deep.
Baseboards of Ms. Rivera’s room have been removed to check for mold, and all classes normally held in room 325 were held in the library on Wednesday, November 1st.
As for damaged student belongings, most of the backpacks and supplies of students in Ms. Rivera’s class at the time of the incident were saved, thanks to the generous help of Ms. Schmidt, although many posters and lab notebooks were destroyed by the water.
The water released by the sprinklers contained a water suppressant which caused the gray coloration and strong smell that lingered on students and belongings, soaked by the sprinklers.
Ms. Rivera and all her students have recovered and even had a party with treats and cards in class on Wednesday.
Ms. Rivera thanks the HFD, HHS faculty, and students for their tremendous cooperation and understanding throughout the event.