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Bomb threat empties Palo Alto City Hall

About 350 city employees evacuated due to 10:05 a.m. bomb threat

A bomb threat made by an anonymous caller prompted Palo Alto officials to evacuate City Hall on Thursday morning (Jan. 7). Employes were allowed back into the building about 2 p.m.

The caller spoke to a police dispatcher at 10:05 a.m., at about the same time that a moderate earthquake shook up Palo Alto. The caller warned that the bomb would go off in about hour. It did not.

Police Lt. Sandra Brown said workers were asked to leave the building at about 10:40 a.m. as a precautionary measure. Bomb-sniffing dogs from Stanford, San Jose and Sunnyvale were called in to search the nine-story structure and the three garage levels. As of 12:30 p.m., no bomb was located.

A section of Bryant Street between Hamilton and Forest avenues was closed to traffic while City Hall was searched.

"We took the highest precautions," Brown said. "Why take any chances?"

About 350 city employees were asked to take an early lunch. Dozens of them congregated next to the Downtown Library, across the street from City Hall.

"We'd much rather be inside, working," City Clerk Donna Grider said.

At about 12:30 p.m., after about two hours of inspection, City Hall employees were informed that they can return to the building in about an hour.

The bomb threat also interrupted the meeting of the city's Architectural Review Board. The board was concluding a public hearing on streetscape improvements on El Camino Real when Amy French, current planning manager, informed board members that they may soon have to evacuate.

Brown said the caller gave no indication as to the kind of explosive device would go off. She said the department often takes calls about bomb threats at other parts of the city, but has not had any at City Hall in recent years.

Lalo Perez, the city's director of the Administrative Services Department, recalled an incident about 15 years ago in which a suspicious briefcase filled with wires prompted city officials to evacuate the whole building and bring in the bomb squad.

The briefcase belonged to a Pacific Bell employee, who visited the building for a service call. The worker forgot that he left the briefcase upstairs and waited outside with the city workers while the bomb squad was detonating his briefcase.

Comments

Like this comment
Posted by Barry
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 7, 2010 at 12:34 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Like this comment
Posted by Evan
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 7, 2010 at 1:12 pm

I walked by and saw about 15 people outside. Is everyone doing another one of those one-day strikes?


Like this comment
Posted by another other
a resident of another community
on Jan 7, 2010 at 1:56 pm

Maybe it was the new $4.8 dollar millionaire trying to cover up the evidence.


Like this comment
Posted by Sam
a resident of another community
on Jan 7, 2010 at 2:00 pm

Does the big, long, red tape outside the building answer your question?


Like this comment
Posted by Employee
a resident of another community
on Jan 7, 2010 at 4:07 pm

We weren't evacuated until well after 11! Nice to know they waited an hour before clearing the building. Didn't get to return until after 2 pm. All vehicles were stuck in garage. Likely raised revenues at downtown merchants.


Like this comment
Posted by Darwin
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 7, 2010 at 6:07 pm

Employee-

Minor nitpicking here. People aren't evacuated. Buildings are evacuated.

:0)


Like this comment
Posted by stretch
a resident of another community
on Jan 7, 2010 at 7:21 pm

Darwin - better change your name and eat some crow. Evacuate, according to Webster's Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary means to "leave empty, vacate or remove persons or things from a place for reasons of safety....". The military, for example, evacuates civilians and troops. Just a minor nitpick.


Like this comment
Posted by Next door Neighbor
a resident of Professorville
on Jan 7, 2010 at 9:09 pm

Would of been nice if the City used it's reverse 911 system to let the neighbors know that this was going on... Hmmm.. What if there was a bomb... Do you think it was wise that all those folks are just standing outside the building? What was the damage in the Oaklahoma bombing?... Had I known this was happening, maybe I would of spent the day somewhere other than home (a block from city hall!!).


Like this comment
Posted by Another Employee
a resident of another community
on Jan 7, 2010 at 10:28 pm

Actually, Employee, we were evacuated at 10:40. The caller indicated a bomb would go off after 11. I don't work in PD, but I would imagine the dispatcher had to inform their supervisor, the supervisor had to inform the chief who then had to look at the facts and make the call.

If city hall was evacutated every time some nut called or stopped by we'd spend all our time standing on the corner. The threat had to be weighed before action could be taken.

The process worked well and we were all kept as safe as possible. Luckily it was all for nothing and we were able to get back to work safe and sound.


Like this comment
Posted by paloaltomarino
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 8, 2010 at 11:37 am

Read the comments on any article about City Hall and government in general these days and it's actually surprising this sh*t doesn't happen more often.

Maybe the City Manager made a calcutated decision and held off for a little in hopes of reducing the work force...en masse. (just kidding, of course)


Like this comment
Posted by CHinCider
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 8, 2010 at 3:02 pm

What with all the negativity in the local media I'm suprised that the headlines today didn't read "CITY EMPLOYEES TAKE 2 1/2 HOUR LUNCH BREAK!!!", accompanied by an editorial calling for an investigation and the firing of those responsible for authorizing such an action.


Like this comment
Posted by Darwin
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 8, 2010 at 3:06 pm

Stretch-

I'm glad you looked it up, but you're still using the word improperly. You evacuate places, you don't evacuate people. Thanks for trying though.


Like this comment
Posted by A Noun Ea Mus
a resident of Professorville
on Jan 8, 2010 at 3:39 pm

"Minor nitpicking here. People aren't evacuated. Buildings are evacuated."

Go Lightly Among the Roughage and Waste

(take off on the Desiderada--that hippie piece some may have gazed at while bombed out of their minds years ago)


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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