by Charles A. Monagan
Jul 10, 2012
06:47 AMOn Connecticut
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It was a jumpy spring in connecticut for worriers and first responders. From one end of the state to the other, there were episodes of spilled white powder, suspicious packages, unattended suitcases, phoned-in bomb threats and even a diverted flight involving Bradley International Airport.
The white-powder incidents were especially impressive. Within a three-week period beginning in late April, the following were recorded:
- In Avon, powder found in a teacher’s purse at Farmington Valley Diagnostic Center was determined to be baking soda. A 17-year-old student was later arrested.
- In New London, the New London Homeless Hospitality Center was evaculated and closed for a period after white powder spilled from a manila envelope addressed to one of the overnight residents.
- In Norwalk, officials investigated a white powder thrown from a passing car. The substance was later determined to be cornstarch.
- In Waterbury, the Rowland Government Center was evacuated and then shut down for an additional day after an envelope was found to contain powder.
- A Goodwill Store in Rocky Hill and elementary school in Newington were evacuated and shut down after letters containing white powder were received. (The letters were thought to be part of a batch of 400 such malicious missives sent out by an as-yet-to-be-apprehended crackpot in Texas.)
- In Bristol, a white powder found in a letter sent to the headquarters of ESPN turned out to be drywall dust.
As an extra bonus, during the same period, there was even a suspicious package reported at Eastern Connecticut State University that kept students locked down in their dorms for several hours until it was found to contain nothing but toilet paper.
The thing is, I was only vaguely aware of most of these emergency situations, and I’m thinking the same probably goes for you, too. After all, there are literally thousands of anthrax hoaxes every year in the United States and probably just as many suitcase and package false alarms, along with mercury spills, asbestos alerts and reports of other environmental mishaps. The incidents tend to slip onto your radar and then almost immediately slip off again.
Unless, of course, the powder happens to be spilled anywhere around where you happen to be—in your school or workplace, or on your street. Then the extraordinarily heavy, time-consuming and costly governmental response makes you very aware that there might be a problem.
Typically, the area is cordoned off, with police controlling the perimeter, as local and state HAZMAT units arrive in their lunar lander suits. If you aren’t immediately evacuated, you may be quarantined for hours or even probed and tested for poison. Often the building is closed for an additional day or two while testing, which was already done on-site, is completed in a state lab.