EXCLUSIVE: An adult student at the Bergen County EMS Training Center in Paramus told CLIFFVIEW PILOT early this morning that officials there didn’t evacuate the building last night until nearly a half-hour after several young students were overcome by some type of fumes.
Authorities were trying to determine what was responsible for causing at least four EMT students to suddenly collapse — three of whom they said had to be taken to area hospitals — at what is one of the largest ambulance and rescue training facilities in the Northeast.
“The rest of the school wasn’t immediately evacuated,” a student from another class told CLIFFVIEW PILOT . “We were asking questions, but we were never told that there was a situation going on. We were told to go back to class.
“Whenever something like this happens, you’re supposed to get everyone outside,” said the EMT student, who is also an area firefighter. “People need to be in open air. They can’t be confined in classrooms.”
Just before 10:30, roughly a half-hour after the first students were brought into the hallway for treatment, “an instructor who’s also a firefighter finally began going around telling people to get out,” he added. Several dozen students were led out the back door to a darkened area, forcing some to use their cellphones as flashlights, the adult student said.
“These are young kids you’re talking about,” he told CLIFFVIEW PILOT . “Some of them are as young as 16. They had no idea what was going on.”
Eventually, he said, everyone was dismissed.
Emergency workers at the scene said they took two patients to The Valley Hospital in Ridgewood and another to Hackensack University Medical Center. A fourth victim refused medical attention, they said.
The incident drew hazmat units from Bergen County and Paramus, as well as the Paramus Rescue Team, Paramus police and firefighters, several ambulance crews and a Westwood patrol sergeant to the East Pascack Road facility.
Executive Director Michael Tarantino couldn’t immediately be reached for comment ( UPDATE: Phones messages were left for county administrators Friday morning).
Under the auspices of Bergen County Technical Schools, the Bergen County EMS Training Center offers three training courses: Emergency Medical Technician, Heavy Rescue and Hazardous Materials.
It was launched without a building of its own in 1976 and eventually moved to its current location in the fall of 1991.