The Courtyard by Marriott in Chattanooga had to be evacuated Sunday, Feb. 14 after four employees suddenly fell ill.
The Chattanooga Fire Department was initially called to the Marriott at 200 Chestnut St. on a medical call. Capt. Mark Shook with Quint 1 said the firefighters were directed to the break room in the basement where paramedics with Hamilton County EMS were already there checking out two employees who complained of nausea and dizziness.
When the firefighters were told that several other employees were also feeling sick, Shook had reason to believe that there might be more involved than individual illnesses and ordered the immediate evacuation of the entire building. EMS transported four employees, all women, to Erlanger Medical Center for treatment.
Chattanooga firefighters worked quickly to evacuate the seven-story building. According to Marriott General Manager Jennifer Anderson, 120 of the Marriott's 128 rooms were occupied. Due to the inclement weather, all of the evacuees were directed to the Residence Inn by Marriott, which is located a short distance down the street.
While the evacuation progressed, the hazmat team was called to help determine what made the employees sick. Wearing full breathing apparatus, technicians used sensitive monitoring devices to determine that the air had dangerous levels of carbon monoxide especially in the laundry room area of the basement.
Tactical Services Chief Danny Hague said that determining the exact source of the carbon monoxide may be difficult. In the basement, the drains have "p-traps," which normally have a water barrier to keep sewer fumes out. Some of those had gone dry, so firefighters flushed them all with water to get the barrier back in place.
Hague said a delivery truck may be another possible source for the carbon monoxide. The truck parked beside the building earlier this morning and the engine was left running while the deliveries were being made. It was located a short distance away from the dryer vents.
The firefighters used high-powered fans to ventilate the entire building until no levels of carbon monoxide were detected. The Marriott staff were allowed back in first and then around 1:30 p.m., the residents were allowed back in. Chief Hague said technicians with the Chattanooga Gas Company and Moccasin Bend Wastewater Treatment Plant were asked to assist with the investigation in determining possible sources for the carbon monoxide. That investigation will be ongoing.
Capt. Wade Batson with Hamilton County EMS said that three of the four employees transported to Erlanger showed significant levels of carbon monoxide poisoning. Plans were to treat them in a hyperbaric chamber in an effort to remove the carbon monoxide from their bloodstreams.
He said one of the victims is pregnant.
Chattanooga police also provided assistance on the scene.