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UPDATE: FDHSMV reopens after anthrax scare

Anthrax scare
Posted at 6:30 PM, Apr 29, 2013
and last updated 2013-04-30 11:44:41-04

UPDATE (April 29, 2013-6:30 p.m.)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL)--More than 1,500 state workers and customers evacuate the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles after a letter said it contained the lethal substance anthrax.

It all happened Monday morning when the state agency's records division discovered the suspicious letter.

Gloria Davis is one of hundreds of employees forced to evacuate.

"The fire alarm went off and everybody said it's a fire alarm you have to get out," said Davis. "I had a lot of customers in there. I had to tell all of them to get out due to the fire alarm."

It turns out it wasn't a fire but a suspicious letter indicating anthrax was inside but Tallahassee firefighters, sweeping the building in hazmat suits, found no signs of the substance.

During the scare, employees and customers waited to get back in the building while those who reportedly came in contact with the letter had to decontaminate.

"The six folks that were in the building, we took them to showers inside, put their clothes into a bag where they can be taken and they won't be mixed in with anything else until we get the results of the test," said Lt. Mike Bellamy, the spokesperson for the Tallahassee Fire Department.

The building reopened around one after being closed for several hours.

Davis says she's glad everyone was evacuated because you just never know, especially after recent scares nationwide like the ricin tainted letter meant for the president.

"It's really scary because you don't know how many hands that the packet had gone through," said Davis.

Firefighters say the Regional Domestic Task Force, made up of local, state, and federal law enforcement officers are investigating this incident.

UPDATE (April 29, 2013 - 1:00 P.M.)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL)-- Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles has resumed operations at their headquarters after a letter sent to the agency, threatening to contain anthrax, forced an evacuation.


UPDATE (April 29, 2013 - 11:21 A.M.)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) --Despite a threat in a letter, Hazmat crews so far have not found any signs of the deadly substance "anthrax" at the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles' headquarters on Apalachee Parkway.

The building was evacuated just before 9 a.m. Monday after FDHSMV's Records Division received a letter that threatened to contain anthrax.

Lt. Mike Bellamy with Tallahassee Fire Department tells WTXL the letter, addressed to an unknown person at FDHSMV, was first found around 8:30 a.m. Monday. The letter we're told said it contained the lethal substance "anthrax".

Tallahassee Fire Department was immediately called and the agency's 1,500 employees were ordered to evacuate.

Six people we're told who came in contact with the letter were held inside of the building until they were able to go through a decontamination shower.

TFD's Hazmat crew has been going through the building; so far no anthrax has been detected, Bellamy said, but adds the letter will be sent to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) for further inspection.

“Out of an abundance of caution, staff worked quickly in executing normal protocols of notifying authorities and clearing the building to ensure the safety of our employees. Our employees did a great job in identifying a potential threat – and quickly enacting security measures.  The safety of our employees is our top priority, and we will continue to work with state, local and federal partners to investigate the incident, so we can quickly return to normal operations," said Julie L. Jones, Executive Director of the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.

Employees have been told to return to work at 1:00 p.m.