On the evening of May 22, 2014 at approximately 7:45 PM the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office had to evacuate its main building due to the release of natural gas into the air handling units on the roof.
Without any notification to the Sheriff’s employees inside the building, a Board of County Commissioner’s maintenance worker and a private contractor were bleeding out gas lines on the roof as part of the process to hook up the boilers which had been offline since the jail explosion. The gas that was bled off went into the air handling units and spread the smell of the gas throughout the building. (This is contrary to the Board of County Commissioners’ press release that implied Pensacola Energy crews were there during the hook up and that the system was fully activated.)
Sheriff’s employees in the building notified the Fire Department, Pensacola Energy, and evacuated the building as is standard procedure with the Sheriff’s Office. Deputies ensured the building was empty and established a perimeter.
Once on scene, the Fire Department located the two workers on the roof. Pensacola Energy arrived on scene approximately fifteen minutes later and assisted the Fire Department by testing the levels of gas inside the building. After over an hour, the building was deemed safe and employees were allowed to return.
While dispatch and 911 services were not interrupted, Narcotics Officers inside the building were in the middle of obtaining confessions and information from two cooperative suspects in the ongoing heroin ring investigation. Low priority calls also had to be held until deputies on the perimeter of the evacuation were released.
“It is inconceivable that at any time, let alone with the recent gas explosion at the jail, that the County would be releasing gas on top of an occupied building and not let the employees inside know,” said Sheriff David Morgan.