Update: Suspicious package delivered to Carson City Sheriff’s Office; substance was gypsum
The Carson City Sheriff’s Office was closed for several hours Tuesday morning after a package containing white powder was brought to the front desk.
An older woman brought a package to the Sheriff’s Office after opening it at her Washoe Valley home and discovering a white powder inside. Officials said she then closed the package, put it in a garbage bag in her garage, then transported it to the Sheriff’s Office to inquire about what to do with it. The powder turned out to be gypsum.
When deputies at the front desk saw the powder, they implemented a hazardous material protocol and put the box outside the Sheriff’s Office to reduce possible exposure in the building. Most of the building was put under one of two quarantines; one for those in the building who were not directly exposed and five people — two desk workers, a sergeant, Sheriff Ken Furlong and the woman — were quarantined separately in the glass enclosure at the front of the building.
Carson City Deputy Fire Chief Bob Charles said the public safety entities immediately went into hazardous material protocol until the substance could be determined. Fire, hazmat, Crime Scene Technology units and the National Guard’s 92nd Civil Support Team all responded to the incident. Several trailers containing a temporary decontamination unit and testing facilities were present at the scene.
“It is protocol with any white substance to treat it like a hazard because it is unknown until we get to test it to confirm or deny whether it is a biological or hazardous material,” Charles said.
The substance was tested around noon, and was determined to be gypsum, a substance commonly used in sheet rock. The U.S. Postal Service was notified and it believes the package was supposed to be sent to the woman and believes the gypsum was a part of the package, Charles said.
The National Guard’s Civil Support Team was in Carson City training at the Fire Station 52 on hazardous material incidents when the call came in, said Furlong. He joked this was probably the best training the team could have gotten — to get called on a real hazmat situation.
“It was a super opportunity for training,” Furlong said.
The woman isn’t being charged with anything, but officials said if anyone finds themselves in this type of situation, they should stay put and call 911. This helps public safety teams, so if it’s a hazardous material, there’s only one exposure zone instead of three — the home, vehicle and Sheriff’s Office, like in this case.
“If you have a possible suspicious item, do not transport it,” Charles said.
“The big piece of this is what residents should do when they are in this situation,” Furlong added. “It gives public safety an advantage when you don’t move it because now we have a home, vehicle and business that are all impacted. The main thing is to keep it contained.”
Despite the Sheriff’s Office being closed from about 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., normal operations and 911 weren’t impacted. The courthouse nor the jail were shut down during the incident and no residents were evacuated. Musser Street from Harbin Avenue to Roop Street was closed during the incident. The substance was cleared by the National Guard at 12:30 p.m.