Reno Museum Accident has Far-Reaching Effect

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Museums hundreds of miles away from Reno are feeling the impact of a science experiment that went wrong at Reno's Terry Lee Wells Discovery Museum.

Reno's fire chief said the experiment involved a mixture of methyl alcohol and boric acid used routinely in a tornado simulator. The mixture somehow caught fire, resulting in a chemical flash that burned several people. Eight children and one adult were hospitalized, according to the City of Reno.

Jen Young, educational program coordinator at the Wow Science Museum in Lodi, expressed deep sympathy for everyone involved in the Reno accident.

"We're in contact with all our neighboring museums, including them, so it hits very close to home," Young said in a Wednesday evening conversation with FOX40.

Realizing that what happened in Reno may raise concerns among the museum-going public, Young would like community members to know that the Wow Science Museum has extensive protocol to ensure safety. And he said staff members will meet to discuss what happened in Reno to make extra sure they are taking every precaution to avoid an accident.

Exhibits at the Wow Science Museum are unplugged every night, and inspected daily, Young said. And before he does any science demonstration, he goes over an extensive checklist, making sure chemical mixtures are correct, and safety equipment such as gloves, goggles and aprons are in place. Young also said any demonstration requiring a chemical reaction is practiced beforehand.

"Even if it's a demonstration I've done one hundred times, I still make sure that I do it again, before we go out to our presentation, two to three times in my classroom," Young explained. "Whenever I'm doing a projectile or a chemical reaction, I make sure that the audience is at least twelve feet back, and often we have a safety barrier in place as well."

The Wow Science Museum has a tornado simulator, but it does not involve chemicals like the simulator in Reno. It uses distilled water and gives off harmless steam.