Once I opened a document in the mailroom that dispersed a large cloud of particulate matter. The phone call went something like this:
"State HAZMAT team. What is your emergency?"
"I just opened a large envelope. It had white powder in it, and now the powder is on the floor!"
"Yes, ma'am. Are you alone in the room?"
"No. I grabbed a co-worker, and asked her whether she thought I should call you! She did."
"Do you have an evacuation plan in your building?"
"Uh, I don't think so . . "
"Go to your fire alarm, and pull it. Get all of the people out of the building. Close the doors to the room you are in, and get undressed."
"You and the co-worker who is also contaminated, must strip down, and get ready for the HAZMAT team, which is on the way. You will be taken to an outside shower for decontamination."
"I'm not getting naked!" (Cue co-worker to go ape-shit)
"Ma'am! You must do this for your own protection! If you have large packing tape, use it to seal off the bottom of the doors."
Well, don't you know that we taped off the bottom of those doors, but we did not get naked -- even if it was going to kill us. No one else in the office knew what was going on, because the fire alarm had sent them outside.
Suddenly the HAZMAT team pulls up, puts on their little moon suits, and comes inside to find the two frightened, stunned federal employees that did their civic duty.
They banged on the door, and we let them in. They started doing their swiping and dusting and sweeping and swabbing while they ushered us outside into the nifty little shower they had set up.
By this time, the fire department had shown up, and once they learned it was a possible hazardous exposure, they kind of kicked back and watched, since this was pretty new to all of us.
Outside, the entire office was standing around waiting to see what was going on, when we emerged from the building and were escorted to the white tent.
About an hour later, we came out of the shower tent, all pink and shiny and smelling faintly of fungicide. My, we had an audience.
So, the bottom line was, the HAZMAT team didn't find anything suspicious in that powder, but they got some valuable practice. The fire department got to spend an hour watching someone else do the hard work. The people in the office were happy to see someone else screw something up.
When the company that sent the document was called by the HAZMAT people, they replied: "Oh, yeah. We get that a lot. It's the talcum powder we use to keep static out of the binding process."
The only people REALLY pissed were the daycare people who found out when the little tykes said, "Mrs. Clancy! There's an alien in the parking lot!" I guess someone should have told them.
I learned to let the mailroom people do their job, and if someone tells you to take your clothes off, you don't HAVE to do it.
Wait. When someone on the phone tell you to take your clothes off, you don't have to do it?