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Officials say Facebook HQ sarin scare was false alarm

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Menlo Park Fire Protection DIstrict
Crews with Menlo Park Fire District and several other agencies responded to Facebook's package handling facilities in Menlo Park, Calif. after a package reportedly tested positive for sarin gas. After a 14-hour search, officials cleared the four evacuated buildings for re-entry on July 2, 2019.

A Facebook spokesman said authorities have found no dangerous substances in a mail and package room at the tech giant’s Menlo Park campus as of early Tuesday morning and the buildings have been approved for re-entry.

Emergency crews cleared from the facility around 1 a.m. after authorities removed a mail bin that may have contained a piece of mail contaminated with a dangerous nerve agent for further testing, according to Menlo Park Fire Protection District officials.

The series of events started around 11 a.m. Monday, when employees at the building located on Hamilton Court called 911 reporting a machine had detected a bin of mail from the U.S. Postal Service that might contain a letter or package laced with sarin, Fire Chief Harold Schapelhouman said. The building was immediately evacuated.

Menlo Park Fire Protection District

Crews with Menlo Park Fire Protection District and several other agencies responded to Facebook’s package handling facilities in Menlo Park, Calif. after a package reportedly tested positive for sarin gas. After a 14-hour search, officials cleared the four evacuated buildings for re-entry on July 2, 2019.

As the day progressed, San Mateo County’s Hazardous Material Response Unit, with help from the U.S. Postal Service, the FBI and the California National Guard’s Civil Support Team – specialized in dealing with chemical, biological and radiological incidents – assessed the situation on the scene.

The San Mateo hazmat and National Guard crews entered the building with the bin at 6 p.m. Monday, according to Schapelhouman, who said crews went room-to-room. The crews left the building and returned around 10:30 p.m. with more sophisticated detection equipment.

Some time around 1 a.m. Tuesday, the crews placed the bin in a 55-gallon containment drum, and from there it went into a larger mobile containment vessel, according to Schapelhouman, and was transported by federal officials to a facility in the East Bay.

Menlo Park Fire Protection District

Hazmat crews from several agencies responded to a Facebook package handling facility in Menlo Park, Calif. on July 1, 2019 after a package reportedly tested positive for sarin gas. The four evacuated buildings were all cleared for re-entry by early morning on July 2, 2019.

Schapelhouman said further testing Tuesday will determine if the substance is indeed a dangerous substance or a false positive, which he said is a strong possibility.

Although it was reported that two people had been exposed to the package, and 12 people were inside the building the package arrived in, Schapelhouman stressed there was never a medical component to the call.

Schapelhouman said:

“There was never a medical component to this thing.”

“… That was not happening.

He said:

“Earlier reports of two individuals exposed and in need of medical attention were false.”

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