White powder alert – not snow.

You’d think that folks in New England would not be easily alarmed by anything described as white powder.

But after the Anthrax scare of 2001, they are.

Three times since the beginning of May, emergency crews have been called to the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center in Shirley after white powder was found in envelopes. Each time the powder was found to be harmless.

On Sunday, May 6, there was a scare at Nashoba Regional High School in Bolton after a suspicious white substance was found in a boy’s bathroom. That too was found to harmless.

And this morning, the Billerica House of Correction was placed in level 3 lockdown, and a part of the jail was quarantined after an employee found a suspicious white powder in an envelope.

This is starting to remind me of the way, almost every year, at least one local school district endures a series of bomb threats.

Officials would be foolish to approach these things carelessly, but the abundance of caution required also seems to be very burdensome.

As a spokesman for the DOC, Diane Wiffin, told me earlier this week “we have to take each incident seriously.”

She’s right. Imagine the story I would write if the DOC or a public official disregarded a suspicious substance and someone was harmed as a result.

Both The Sun and other publications would absolutely tee off.

But at the same time, how much of the state could a person shut down just by mailing out dozens of envelopes full of flour or baking soda?

I know that schools and police have teamed up to plan their responses to bomb threats, to calmly evaluate the danger and respond accordingly. Perhaps similar plans need to be put in place when it comes to suspicious substances?

The folks in public safety are often many steps ahead of me, so I’ve sent out an email to the DOC, the sheriff’s office, state police, Lowell Police and MEMA to see what officials think about this and what kind of plans might be in the works.

I’m off the next couple of days, but I’ll update this over the weekend if I have some responses by then.

As things stand now, it’s scary to think that a box of baking soda could be used to shut down so much of our government. Thoughts?

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One response to “White powder alert – not snow.

  1. Definitely a response procedure has to be in place for this type of situation…remember the white powder scare at the Walgreen’s on Plain St not a month after those anthrax-mailings in 2001? Nothing can be taken for granted; the public’s safety depends on it!

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