PG hazmat team called to mail processing center

Prince George's County's hazmat team was called to a federal mail processing center in Landover to help federal agents who are investigating suspicious letters to members of Congress and the president.

WASHINGTON – The Prince George’s County Fire Department responded to a federal mail processing center on Pennsy Drive in Landover as part of the investigation into the suspicious letters sent to members of Congress and President Obama.

The department’s Hazardous Materials Response Team got the call at 6:30 a.m. Wednesday to assist federal investigators and were still at the processing center twelve hours later.

“The team was sent to specifically assist the screeners that work with the mail because of what they call a presumptive hit that was received for some kind of hazardous material,” says Prince George’s County Fire Chief Marc Bashoor.

The technicians wore Level B protective suits with respirators and were carefully monitored for their own safety.

“They have to have what we call premedical testing before they go in. They have their blood pressures checked and all the different things we would do before they enter any environment. Then when they’re in the environment for a fixed amount of time, they can only spend so much time in there. It depends on the situation. They’re sent back out, they have medical testing done again, they come out of the suit and take a break while another team goes in and continues the operations.”

When the work is done, the technicians go through a decontamination tent where the suits are washed down and then disposed of.

Bashoor says mail facilities in the country are better prepared today than they used to be to deal with situations like this.

“After 9-11 these mail centers received a significant amount of funding and equipment to be much more robust in their ability to analyze hazardous environments.”

Chief Bashoor says their work in Landover is not unusual.

He says the hazmat team is called to mail centers in the county about once a week.

“After 9-11, it’s become part of what we do and who we are. One of the things that changed for us is that while we were used to those facilities being in our backyard, it was something that frankly most folks didn’t pay much attention to. After 9-11 it’s a routine for us.”

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