SMC Evacuates Buildings Alongside Pico after Suspected Gas Leak
Students, faculty, and campus visitors were evacuated from the premises of Santa Monica College on Monday after the odor of natural gas permeated throughout the school.
The odor allegedly stemmed from a teaspoon of mercaptan that was spilled by the Big Blue Bus company in the afternoon.
Mercaptan, which is known for its putrid stench, is often added to natural gas for safety reasons, such as making gas leaks easier to detect.
Big Blue Bus announced that the chemicals were released into the air at their Bus Facilities at Lincoln Street and Broadway Street, and that wind currents wafted the unpleasant smell to the school.
Simultaneously occurring with the chemical spill was a power outage, which left Drescher Hall and the business building without power.
The outage caused Drescher Hall, the business building, the administrative building and Admissions Complex to be evacuated.
The buildings were evacuated for approximately 10 to 20 minutes. Back-up generators were activated in roughly the same amount of time.
However, classrooms as far as the science building were affected, as students could be seen covering their faces with jackets and t-shirts attempting to escape the rancid smell.
At 1 p.m., bookstore employee Elease Juarez called for an evacuation of the building over the P.A. system after being advised to do so by campus police.
“They told us if you feel it’s unsafe to be in the store then go ahead and leave,” said Juarez. “We were told to go where the gas was least prevalent, so we waited in front of the library.”
John Rogers, who works in the cosmetology department, was unfazed by the abrupt commotion.
“Students always escalate things,” said Rogers, who believes students in the business building may have exploited the apparent danger to get out of class early.
“Students always want it to be a terrorist attack or something spectacular—it was a hot Monday afternoon and young people want to go home,” said Rogers.
Rogers didn’t feel the abundant additive odor was ever an immediate threat to faculty or student safety.
The incident illustrated SMC’s current or apparent lack of preparation in the event of an actual gas leak.