Tentatively, Mailrooms To Reopen; Governor Urges ‘Continued Vigilance’

… State agencies returning to normal after incendiary devices found Thursday  …

baltimoresun.com

By Nick Madigan, The Baltimore Sun

1:39 PM EST, January 7, 2011

In the wake of the discovery Thursday of incendiary devices in two state buildings, Gov. Martin O’Malley this morning asked state employees for “continued vigilance” and to immediately report any activity “that appears suspicious or out of the ordinary.”

The governor’s e-mail to all state workers sought to assure them “that we are taking this matter seriously and we continue to take precautions to protect the public safety and our public employees.” O’Malley wrote that the incidents in Annapolis and Hanover not only “disrupted the work day” but “reminded us all that we are a community.”

Each of the two packages, one addressed to O’Malley and the other to Transportation Secretary Beverly Swaim-Staley, contained a small incendiary device that ignited when opened.

“Fortunately, thanks in part to the vigilance of state employees and the response of public safety agencies, no serious injury occurred,” the governor wrote.

Both buildings were evacuated and mailrooms in other state buildings were closed. Employees elsewhere were warned not to touch any packages until they had been inspected by police officers, in many cases accompanied by dogs trained to search for explosives.

In response to the incidents, officials from the Maryland State Police and the Maryland Emergency Management Agency were distributing guidelines under which normal activity can resume in mailrooms in state buildings, according to Shaun Adamec, a spokesman for the governor’s office.

“Today, that’s what’s being done,” Adamec said. “They’ll be slowly reopening.”

Adamec said the mailroom in the Jeffrey Building in Annapolis, where one of the devices was found, reopened Friday morning, as did the mailroom that supplies the state police.

At the Harry R. Hughes Department of Transportation Building in Hanover, where the other package was opened, an official said Friday that the mailroom had not returned to full service pending some additional training for employees there. In that case, the package at issue made it to the building’s fourth floor, where Swaim-Staley’s offices are located.

The DOT official said mail and packages that were in the mailroom at the time of the incident and had later been inspected by the police were being delivered to their recipients in the agency, but that no fresh mail was being accepted for processing until the mailroom returns to normal service early next week.

Shannon M. Davis, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, said the agency was back to normal Friday. “The mailrooms were locked down, as were the mailrooms all across the state,” she said. “The police came and checked everything out and gave the all-clear to reopen everything this morning.”

Dave Ryer, managing director of the office of administration and technology at the state Department of Business and Economic Development, said the agency was cleared about 10:30 a.m. “to restore normal operations.” Until that point, the department had quarantined its mailroom, asked the U.S. Postal Service to hold any incoming mail and notified shipping services such as FedEx not to stop by.

Now the mail is flowing again. “We’re delivering it as we speak,” he said.

The situation was similar at the state Motor Vehicle Administration. “Our mailroom was swept yesterday and it reopened today,” said Buel Young, a spokesman for the agency. He said officers from the Maryland Transportation Authority Police worked with state police colleagues in searching the premises, aided by dogs.

Police at the University of Maryland, College Park, sent out a message Friday morning telling everyone on campus that it was safe to handle mail again. The message, which went out at 9:16 a.m., said that police had screened all recently arrived mail and found no trace of incendiary devices.

Baltimore Sun reporters Jamie Smith Hopkins, Childs Walker, Michael Dresser and Yeganeh June Torbati contributed to this article.

Copyright © 2011, The Baltimore Sun

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