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If we all remember after 9/11 there were tones of white powder scares with only a few being actual real emergencies. Actually the one real emergency that I remember shut down the USPS. I am wondering what are your procedures for these type of calls? Is your House prepared?

Todd McKee

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Todd,
Boy, do I remeber those initial "white powder" calls! They were like a three ring circus without the ring master! Fortunately, in the post 9-11 world our department was able to get funding to start a WMD/HazMat team. That's a story for another time.. Anyhow, without giving away too many details (Op. security, ya know) we function based on a good size up and recon. Initially we assemble the required number of on-duty techs at the scene with our truck. This required number of people is enough to make an initial entry with a back up team and set up decon. Based on initial tests in the field, we can narrow down our possibilities as to what the powder could be. While that is going on, the PD members on our team are doing interviews and collecting information to further figure out what may have happened. If, after the initial tests and recon, it indicates we have a possible WMD situation or harmful haz mat, the rest of the troops and related agencies are notified and planning begins for the second operational period. We have been very successful in decreasing the ammount of time and resources used on a "typical" powder call. So, in answer to your question, yes my department is prepared for powder calls.
Have you had any recent calls?
The last call I was involved with was last Spring. Someone found multiple piles of tan, granular "powder" at the baggage pick up at our airport. My shift was light on techs that day, but between some guys on O.T. and doing some non-emergency transports we were able to assemble a team in 30 mins. The ARFF guys and 1 engine company had evacuated the baggage claim area and did an initial survey with a four-gas meter which turned up nothing. Once we had assembled our recon team, got decon set up with the engine company, and wrote out our plan and had our briefing it was a little over an hour. We had baggage claim moved to curbside away from the hotzone. We went in and ran one of our tests twice since it came back positive for protein. At this point we had mutual aid techs come in and confirm that while it was positive for protein, it was not a WMD material. Though we were unsure exactly what it was, we knew what it wasn't. The PD had received no threats, or evidence of any kind of terrorist action. Looking at it logically, they were thinking someone brought sand back from their vacation some place warm! Still, we took a sample, documented the sample, etc. The decision was made to render the substance harmless, from a biological standpoint. We had the baggage claim opened again within 2 hours. There have been other powder calls since, but I wasn't involved in those calls. The state lab came back saying it was a "protein based food substance"; baby formula or protein powder.
We have the county wide team in my station. At that time we responded full bore to all of the calls. Now we have trained techs in the other firehouses that can do some leg work before we get there. No recent calls, but I see some stuff in the news that mkes me nervous. Practice makes perfect, we'll see...
Here in South Carolina ,just this past week ,several banks has gotten letters with powder in them, Haz-mat team was there to take action with law enforcement,all tho the powder was not dangerous,but who ever has sent these letters,and if caught will serve prison time...Still under investigation here.,in SC
Brenda:

What are they saying the white powder is? Could you attach some news articles?

Todd McKee
Todd ,I would say NO. Most homes who receive mail from and route.,have no way of knowing.if they would receive any thing of the sort in their mail.
The banks that received the letters,here in South Carolina ,the law enforcement said a powder like white sugar,who-ever sent this was to scare the banks,persons of interest ,home owners who lost their homes to the bank,fore closer ."
The Febs have this own and low profile for now..
I have not heard much lately about this,since it was on the news here in SC.

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