Monday, October 24, 2005

It's (probably not) a radiation vibe I'm groovin' on

As I type, I'm sitting in a classroom at UT-Austin, effectively quarantined for now.

At about 6 PM smoke was noticed in the Experiemental Science Building (ESB), which houses biology and chemistry labs. For some reason, the fire alarm didn't go off immediately and a UT police officer came to our lab and told us to leave the building. We gathered outside and took our lab quiz while waiting for the all clear. Apparently the smoke alarms did go off a full half-hour after smoke was first noticed, a rather discomfiting situation given the nature of the work that happens in the building.

Within a couple minutes, several firetrucks, an ambulance, and a Hazmat truck came down the street lights and sirens going. We were moved across the street and asked not to leave the area. Our lab teaching assistant valiantly attempted to go over some of the classwork so we wouldn't get behind as more and more emergency vehicles arrive. Later, our student IDs were collected by UTPD.

After another hour or so the officials on the scene gathered the roughly 150 of us to update us on the situation. While a UT police officer was in the building, their radiation dosimeter detected something (who knew UTPD routinely carried such a thing?). Later, when the firepeople were in ESB, one of their radiation dosimeters malfunctioned showing a reading as well.

All the firepeople were scanned on their way out of the building with nothing detected, but there was still we students, faculty, and staff. We lined up at the North entrance of Welch and were scanned one by one before proceeding to the classroom where I now sit.

The mood in the room is good. Most people are chatting with their classmates or on their cell phones. There's a spirited game of Charades going on in the front of the classroom and a smattering of students are reading or tapping away on their laptops like me.

Officials from UT and the Fire Department just went over the details with us again. All the potential radiation sources in the building were checked and they were not responsible for the probable almost surely false dosimeter readings. We're to be dismissed shortly.

I knew I should have brought my camera with me today.

UPDATE: The area was roped off by standard yellow caution tape, but as I was leaving I noticed that the affected building itself was surrounded by red HOT ZONE tape. Haven't seen that before and would prefer not to again.

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  1. How weird and scary. Just in time for Halloween. Also, you know the lomo rule - take your camera with you wherever you go!

  2. I wondered what the heck was going on. Eric and I followed those same emergency vehicles (at a respectful distance, of course) up the Drag, somewhat guiltily exulting at the good fortune of being able to hit all the green lights during rush hour.