Hospital Staff Smoked Out After Vacuum Issue

Hospital Staff Smoked Out After Vacuum IssueIdeally, hospitals are havens of tidiness and cleanliness—while it’s possible to pick up a nasty infection with a compromised immune system, staff do their very best to ensure every bed is clean and every procedure is sterile.

Sometimes, however, hospital infrastructure won’t play along, causing more than few headaches for doctors and patients. Such is the case at Danville Regional Medical Center, which recently faced a double-whammy: smoke from an overheated vacuum pump, followed by a massive oily discharge.

Oil’s Well That Ends Well?

According to Go Dan River, the hospital was left with quite a mess to clean up. It all started on November 23rd when a vacuum pump in the basement overheated. This sent smoke pouring into a sterile processing area on the first floor along with two operating rooms on the second floor.

When the smoke cleared the walls, floors, medical equipment, and duct work in all these rooms were covered with an oily residue. As a result, more than 100 procedures had to be postponed and the hospital is still getting everything re-sterilized after the smoke-out.

You Found What?

Smoke and oil aren’t the oddest things to come from duct work, or so says a list compiled by Kleen Rite. According to the cleaning company, homeowners and construction workers leave behind some very strange calling cards.

For example, a duct cleaning company in Florida once came across contraband such as prescription drugs and weapons stashed in ducts, while other businesses report finding half-eaten meals, human waste and even “lost” family pets.

One of the strangest stories? A child who had a habit of dropping items down the vent; when the cleaning company came to investigate a vent that wasn’t pushing through any air, they discovered 45 VHS tapes and 19 books blocking the way. Bottom line: not everything that’s in your ducts is supposed to be there.

Not Always So Exciting

In the Danville case, a failed vacuum pump led to the contamination of duct work and the expense of cleaning and re-sterilizing much of the hospital. For some home and business owners, the problem comes from strange items clogging or damaging these ducts, which in turn leads to reduced air flow or a furnace failure.

In most cases, however, the problem is nothing so serious or exciting: poorly-performing HVAC systems may be due to improper or lackluster duct cleaning.

Solving this problem (along with regular checks of pumps and furnaces) can help keep your ducts blowing at full speed, meaning less air lost and lower HVAC budgets. And who knows? When it’s time for a deep clean, you might discover hidden treasure or another “surprise”. Happy hunting!

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One comment


  • A hospital is one of the last places that should go through these issues, but it happens. Like you said, it is extremely important to maintain a routine checkup on HVAC systems. Thanks for sharing!

    February 12, 2015

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