A homegrown promotion idea is blamed for causing a HAZMAT alert in Des Moines today. Fire department spokesman Brian O’Keefe says a first-floor mailroom that processes mail for Citicorp opened an envelope and a white granular substance came out. As they tracked its return address and contacted the sender, investigators learned it was apparently a bright idea for a sales promotion that went wrong.The crew arrived and contacted the sender of the letter to find it was a business promotion gimmick — he’d put aspirin in the envelope with a message to say “I can help you with your business headaches,” but when the aspirin was crushed in the mail he didn’t realize what a headache it would cause. They talked with the sender and determined he had not intended to cause a terrorism incident.He was surprised when they called, as anyone might be upon getting calls from the FBI and U.S. postal inspectors, but he had no criminal intent and nothing in the letter implied a threat, so there are not likely to be any legal issues for him. O’Keefe says the HAZMAT response to the report of the granular substance in the mailroom. It’s the way they have to handle a call until they know what the stuff was, who it involves and what their intention was. In the case of a big corporation getting mail from all over the country he says they were right to report the incident. O’Keefe adds the postal service told him they don’t want the incident downplayed as unimportant, since they’re concerned some prankster might think it’s okay to play a practical joke.
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