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Palo Alto Online

Publication Date: Wednesday, September 11, 2002

Anthrax scare reached Palo Alto Anthrax scare reached Palo Alto (September 11, 2002)

Fire department got 14 calls a day

Palo Alto's hazardous materials team was put to the test in the wake of Sept. 11 after several newspapers and public officials back East received letters containing anthrax.

All told, the fire department investigated about 130 items thought by Palo Alto residents to contain anthrax powder, said Battalion Chief Mick McDonald.

The list included not only letters and packages, but also jackets, plants and even the cremated remains of a pet.

At the height of the scare, the department got about 14 calls a day, and McDonald noted a correlation between media reports and call volume. While the number dissipated over time, new peaks occurred every time CNN carried reports of possible anthrax cases. It wasn't until February or March that things cooled down.

McDonald sees the phenomenon as a positive sign that the public was paying attention.

"At the federal and local level we actively told people to be vigilant. We can't very well not take heed of that when they have some issues," he pointed out.

-- Pam Sturner


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