U.B. Students Back In Dorm After Overnight Evacuation

March 2, 2012 Updated Mar 2, 2012 at 2:16 PM EDT

By WKBW News

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March 2, 2012 Updated Mar 2, 2012 at 2:16 PM EDT

Amherst, N.Y. (WKBW ) - Many University at Buffalo students say it was a chaotic night at a dorm on the North Campus in Amherst, after being evacuated for a strange odor that could have been tied to pepper spray.

"I was in my dorm room, then just after 10 the fire alarm went off," student Meghann Nelson said.

More than 500 people were evacuated from Red Jacket dorm after residents reported smelling a strange odor.

The students were alerted to leave the building through the university's text messaging and email systems. Six students complained of itchy skin and eyes. Those students were treated on the scene and some of them were held for observation overnight as a precaution.

In a release obtained by Eyewitness News, University official say it could have been a release of pepper spray. That release is posted at the bottom of this report.

"One young woman was transported to the hospital. She has a history of asthma which may or may not be related to this," Officer of Communications at UB Joe Brennan said.

Emergency crews from many agencies arrived on scene, luckily they were not all needed. University officials are calling this a minor incident.

"Fire Fighters went through the building with detection equipment and that detection equipment did pick up any significant reading so we ruled out any hazardous materials or chemical exposure here," Brennan said.

"We live here 24/7 through out the semester so if something is happening it's obviously a problem and obviously affect people here. Not even just no but for the future we're going to be scared to go in our own dorm buildings," student Victoria Lago said.

"We're glad it was not a serious incident. No one was seriously injured. We're sorry about the disruption it caused but it's better to be safe than sorry," Brennan said.

University At Buffalo Release:
Red Jacket Residence Hall safe for students to return
Published March 2, 2012 at 12:49 PM

Students were evacuated from Red Jacket Residence Hall Thursday night due to an unidentified odor in the building. The smell was first reported around 10 p.m. Thursday.

Shortly after, emergency responders completed a thorough inspection of Red Jacket Quadrangle on the North Campus, deeming it safe for students to return.

UB Police say the cause of the odor is still undetermined and the investigation is continuing, but their investigation today revealed one possible cause: Pepper spray may have been sprayed in one hallway of the building.

The symptoms of affected students were consistent with indirect exposure to pepper spray and dissipated quickly after they walked outside into the cool fresh air, UB police investigators say.

A UB Alert text message was dispatched to the campus community at about 10:30 p.m., advising people to stay away from the building until further notice. A follow-up UB Alert at about 1 a.m. Friday stated that it was safe for students to return to Red Jacket.

“Firefighters went through numerous times with sophisticated detection equipment and didn't pick anything up,” explained Joseph Brennan, associate vice president for university communications.

No injuries were reported. One student with a history of asthma was taken to an area hospital as a precaution.

The odor was not construction related.

“We ruled out natural gas, we ruled out chemicals. Nobody was seriously harmed. We apologize for the disruption that it caused, but it’s better to be safe than to be sorry,” Brennan said.

University Police continue to investigate. No other updates are available at this time.