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‘Chirping’ electronic needle results in evacuation of CMC’s ER

Charlotte law officials and emergency personnel roped off a confined area of Carolinas Medical Center.
Charlotte law officials and emergency personnel roped off a confined area of Carolinas Medical Center. ogaines@charlotteobserver.com

Parts of the emergency room in Charlotte’s biggest hospital were evacuated Friday when a low-battery alarm on an unseen medical device aroused suspicion, officials said.

They later learned the noise came from an electronic epinephrine auto injector, a needle that allows users to inject themselves with a single dose of epinephrine after a life-threatening allergic reaction.

Shortly after 8 a.m., police and firefighters responded to Carolinas Medical Center after receiving reports of a suspicious package found in the emergency department, hospital spokesman Kevin McCarthy said.

He said some parts of the emergency room were evacuated, but he was unsure how many people were escorted out. There were other parts of the emergency department that were deemed safe and fully operational while emergency crews and media swarmed the hospital.

As emergency responders probed the package, Medic diverted its units away from the hospital “out of an abundance of caution” and transported patients to other area hospitals, a spokesman said.

By 10:15 a.m., police started packing up their equipment and rolled away the caution tape after determining the injector’s “chirping battery” was the culprit, McCarthy said.

The medical device sounded because its battery was dying, he said. The needle had been thrown away in one of several containers hospital staff use to dispose of used medical needles.

“(The needle’s container is) tinted so you can’t see inside,” McCarthy said. “That’s why when they heard the chirping sound, they were unable to tell what it was.”

It’s unclear if a patient or employee alerted officials to the noise.

Jonathan McFadden: 704-358-6045, @JmcfaddenObsBiz

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