H/t to Harold J. Adams of the Louisville, Kentucky Courier-Journal for the following report about one of the Census Bureau’s three data capture centers:
A red powder that prompted authorities to evacuate a Census Bureau warehouse in Jeffersonville on Tuesday morning turned out to be Jell-O.
That’s according to David Hackbarth, director of the bureau’s National Processing Center on East 10th Street.
Hackbarth said similar incidents have happened multiple times since the census began.
About 200 employees were forced to leave the warehouse about 8 a.m. after the bureau’s onsite response team could not identify the powder found along with a mailed-in census questionnaire in an envelope opened by a worker an hour earlier. The all-clear was given shortly before 1 p.m.
A 20,000-square-foot work bay was on lock-down with no one allowed in or out during the hour that census officials investigated the substance. Then it was determined to evacuate the 200 workers who had been isolated in the bay and call 911 to get help from the Jeffersonville Fire Department and the National Guard’s hazardous materials team in Louisville, Hackbarth said.
The employees were kept out of the building during the National Guard investigation.
“This makes our nineteenth incident since we started the census” in March, Hackbarth said.
In sixteen of the previous incidents, Census Bureau security was able to determine the substances were harmless without calling in outside help. Two other incidents did require National Guard help, but were also found to be harmless, Hackbarth said.
The evacuation of the warehouse temporarily suspended the processing of incoming census forms, he said, but other operations proceeded normally.
“Fortunately, we are ahead of our processing curve,” he said.