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One dead as hazmat crews rush to Harvard Dental School

WHDH reports the school on Longwood Avenue was evacuated, including students performing dental surgery at the time. WBZ updates that the person may have been dead since yesterday, that there was no spill and that hazmat crews were called because the school's labs have various chemicals.

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What does "level 3" mean?

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It's the lowest level of hazmat response. News is reporting it as a possible suicide.

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Perhaps you should read what I and Mjolnir posted below regarding hazmat response levels.

Also, I thought the media had a hard and fast rule about not speculating about a death being a suicide until it was officially confirmed by the police or medical examiner as such.

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Health hazards in firefighting generally result from a single exposure, which may vary from a few seconds up to an hour. Only hazards arising out of an inherent property of the material are considered. It should be noted, however, that the physical exertion demanded in firefighting or other emergency conditions tends to intensify the effects of any exposure.
Risk level 4: Materials too dangerous to human health to expose firefighters. A few whiffs of the vapor could cause death or the vapor or liquid could be fatal on penetrating the firefighter s normal full protective clothing. The normal full protective clothing and breathing apparatus available to the average fire department will not provide adequate protection against inhalation or skin contact with these materials.
Risk level 3: Materials extremely hazardous to health, but areas may be entered with extreme care. Full protective clothing including self-contained breathing apparatus, coat, pants, gloves, and boots, with bands around the legs, arms, and waist should be provided. No skin surface should be exposed.
Risk level 2: Materials hazardous to health, but areas may be entered freely with full facemask self-contained breathing apparatus that also provides eye protection.
Risk level 1: Materials only slightly hazardous to health. It may be desirable to wear self-contained breathing apparatus.
Risk level 0: Materials which on exposure under fire conditions would offer no hazard beyond that of ordinary combustible materials.

So Level 3 is a high risk, but personnel can still enter the scene provided they take significant precautions to protect themselves.

In other words, we've got a serious situation going on over there.

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Level 3. An incident involving hazardous materials
that is beyond the capabilities of a single state or regional
response team and requires additional assistance.
Level 3 incidents can require resources from
state and federal agencies and private industry. These
incidents generally pose extreme, immediate, and/or
long-term risk to the environment and public health

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From the National Fire Prevention Association reference PDF:

Level 3. An incident involving hazardous materials that is beyond the capabilities of a single state or regional response team and requires additional assistance. Level 3 incidents can require resources from state and federal agencies and private industry. These incidents generally pose extreme, immediate, and/or long-term risk to the environment and public health.

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The presence of any material with an NFPA rating of 3 or greater in any category (health, flammability, reactivity) automatically makes it a level 3 incident. Dental amalgam (which contains mercury) is a level 3 risk in the health category (https://www.dhpionline.com/msds/109-29996.pdf), so it's inevitable that any incident in a dental school would be classified as level 3.

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crews found a body in a lab near chemicals, prompting the hazmat response out of an abundance of caution

-WHDH

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From the Boston Fire Dept facebook page the Boston Fire Dept LEVEL 3 -
LEVEL 3
DEFINITION:
A LEVEL 3 Incident is defined as having at least one of the three key components as follows:
- Materials or conditions which require the use of the chemical protective clothing,
- The evacuation of areas and buildings adjacent to the chemical emergency
- Extreme conditions necessitating additional equipment and specially trained personnel.

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