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Lab incident shows importance of safety protocols

No one injured, thanks to proper response by all involved

The chemistry lab incident at the University of Delaware on Feb. 8 that prompted the evacuation of several buildings around The Green began with a mistake. But thanks to a student’s knowledge of safety protocols and a prompt response by trained professionals, it was no accident that the incident ended without any injuries or damage to campus facilities.

“Safety is the University of Delaware’s top priority, and I want to thank and commend everyone involved in this incident for following our protocols to keep themselves and others safe,” said President Dennis Assanis.

The University is also learning from the incident to further enhance lab safety protocols, according to Mark Seifert, UD associate vice president for emergency management and safety.

The incident occurred shortly before noon on Feb. 8 in Lammot du Pont Laboratory when a student incorrectly mixed chemicals, resulting in a small amount of a shock-sensitive explosive chemical. The student immediately realized the error and reported it to a faculty member and a lab manager, who notified UD Environmental Health and Safety.

“The people involved correctly followed the University’s safety protocols, which helped ensure the safety of the entire UD community,” Seifert said. “Mistakes happen; it’s what you do after the mistake that matters the most.”

As a precautionary measure, UD Police evacuated Lammot du Pont Lab, Brown Lab and Drake Hall while EHS assessed the situation. Additional authorities were called to the lab, including the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control hazardous materials unit, the Delaware State Police Explosive Ordnance Disposal Unit, the FBI Explosive Ordnance Disposal Unit and the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

“The University is deeply grateful for the expertise and rapid response of our public safety partners at the state and federal levels,” Seifert said. “I want to thank them for their critical assistance throughout this incident.”

Notably, EHS had recently completed several tabletop exercises with relevant partners, which helped ensure a prompt response to this incident, he said. Such exercises and training sessions are conducted regularly to prepare for a variety of scenarios and keep the campus community safe.

Out of an abundance of caution, UD Police also evacuated Alison Hall, Alison West, Memorial Hall and Morris Library, as well as restricted pedestrian traffic in the area. UD Alerts were sent throughout the incident to notify the community of the evacuations and restrictions.

“The UD Alert system is a critical tool in keeping the campus community safe, so I encourage everyone to make sure their contact information is up to date,” Seifert said. “All members of the community should also install and use the LiveSafe app.”

The Delaware State Police unit safely removed the chemical compound from the lab and detonated it in a controlled setting on the South Green about 5:40 p.m. The area was reopened about 6:20 p.m.

No one was injured at any point during the incident, Seifert said. 

“This incident demonstrates why it is vitally important that all members of the UD community understand and follow the safety protocols that are in place,” Seifert said. “The University is committed to protecting the safety of everyone in our community, and that depends on all of us.”

For more information on UD’s safety response resources, visit https://www.udel.edu/safety/

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