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Sacred Heart students ill after lab incident

Hempstead firefighters, emergency medical service personnel and Nassau

Hempstead firefighters, emergency medical service personnel and Nassau County Hazardous Materials units respond to the scene of a reported chemical spill at Sacred Heart Academy on Cathedral Avenue in Hempstead. Some students were taken to a hospital as officials investigated the incident. (Nov. 18, 2011) Credit: Lou Minutoli

More than 20 students at Sacred Heart Academy in Hempstead were taken to Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow on Friday as a precaution after complaining of headaches in a science lab, Nassau police and fire officials said.

While no one was injured, Nassau County Fire Marshal spokesman Vincent McManus said, the incident provided a good test of the county's mass casualty incident plan -- a response plan that coordinates resources to evaluate and transport large numbers of patients "quickly and efficiently."

Hempstead Police Lt. Vincent Montera said the incident was reported at 10:30 a.m.

McManus said that, once notified, Hempstead Fire Chief Scott Clark coordinated response on the scene, notified Nassau police ambulance that a potential mass casualty incident had occurred -- and a triage area to evaluate students, a staging area to coordinate ambulance response and a transportation plan were established.

Ambulance crews from the Hempstead, South Hempstead, West Hempstead, Lakeview, Elmont and North Bellmore fire departments, as well as Nassau police, transported students to the hospital. Fire department personnel from Bellmore and Baldwin were on standby.

No one from the school was immediately available for comment. Sacred Heart, an all-girls school, is on Cathedral Avenue.

McManus said that an odor from light smoke or some sort of science experiment in an early morning class resulted in students from a later class reporting feeling ill. The common complaint was that of headaches, McManus said.

As a precaution, school officials and first-responders elected to take the girls to NUMC for evaluation.

Officials stressed that there were no reported injuries.

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