by John R. Fischer
, Senior Reporter | July 26, 2023
Johns Hopkins All Children’s Outpatient Care in Tampa has reopened following an evacuation initiated due to hydrogen gas leaking from 30 lithium-ion batteries in the MR Suite, creating a respiratory health hazard and the potential for an explosive fire.
The facility evacuated roughly 80 people after employees smelled the odor and called 911. The leak may have been connected to several power failures that occurred the day before, reported ABC Action News/WFTA Tampa Bay
Three employees were hospitalized for respiratory symptoms and later released. Hillsborough County Fire Rescue and the County Sheriff's Office's bomb squad and robot were called to remove the 100-lb batteries, a backup power source for the facility’s MR scanners, according to the Tampa Bay Times
For those who need to move fast and expand clinical capabilities -- and would love new equipment -- the uCT 550 Advance offers a new fully configured 80-slice CT in up to 2 weeks with routine maintenance and parts and Software Upgrades for Life™ included.
Two batteries exploded but did not cause a fire. The others swelled, making it challenging for the hazmat team to enter the storage space to disconnect them.
“After several hours, fire rescue was able to remove and neutralize the hazard. Fire rescue is using fans to air out the building and conduct air quality tests,” Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital said in a statement on its website.
MR safety expert Tobias Gilk, senior vice president of the radiology equipment planning and facility design firm, RAD-Planning, told HCB News that only a small minority of MR scanners in the world have a battery backup system, and that an explosion could damage the MR suite and other parts of the building.
Here are two tactics he suggests providers with battery backup systems use to avoid adverse incidents:
- Place the backup system in a remote location While having batteries close to the MR suite is helpful, the backup system only requires an electrical connection and can be installed in a remote area which poses less risk to building occupants.
- Perform preventive maintenance If the backup system is near the suite, it is important to check the status of individual batteries in the battery bank periodically. Depending on how long the backup system is designed to power the MR scanner, battery banks can be as small as one refrigerator size and as large as two or three refrigerator sizes.
“Maintaining those and making sure that they're in good working condition should be a part of the facility's regular preventive maintenance scheme,” he told HCB News.
The batteries at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Outpatient Care were placed in drums of sodium bicarbonate to neutralize them and later disposed of by a third-party company.
The clinic remained closed the next day but reopened Monday, July 24.