A hazardous materials expert says a Des Moines postal worker who was exposed to a suspicious letter this morning did exactly what she should -not- have done. The worker rushed from the post office to a hospital emergency room, forcing haz-mat teams to seal off the E-R and later, lock down the entire hospital. Des Moines Fire Department inspector Brian O’Keefe (oh-KEEF) says that person should have stayed put and called 9-1-1. O’Keefe says any business that handles mail has been encouraged to have a washing station, wear protective gear, be able to isolate their ventilation system and have a phone in that room so they can make the call and minimize exposure to other people. He says situation today came out okay, but it could have been disastrous. O’Keefe explains how people -should- react when coming in contact with something that’s potentially hazardous: “Don’t handle it unless you have to. If exposed, immediately flush it with water. Give us a call, get the fire department rolling. We want to minimize the number of people exposed and those locations because if it were a large-scale chemical that could really harm a lot of people, you can imagine the outcome today.” O’Keefe says the envelope contained rat poison pellets. It was addressed to a government agency — though he wouldn’t specify which one. The envelope had an out-of-state postmark and -no- return address. The postal worker was treated and released.
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