Facebook Menlo Park HQ buildings evacuated amid sarin gas scare

2 Jul 2019

Image: maglara/Depositphotos

Four buildings at the Facebook Menlo Park HQ had to be evacuated due to a sarin gas scare after a package set off mailroom alarms.

Staff at Facebook’s California headquarters in Menlo Park were evacuated yesterday (1 July) after a package believed to contain nerve agent sarin was delivered to the building. The package set off sarin alarms in equipment designed to screen all incoming deliveries for toxins.

Four buildings were evacuated and briefly put under quarantine as FBI agents, police officers, firefighters, the National Guard and a hazmat crew swept the site to investigate the claims.

Sarin is a manmade nerve agent used in chemical warfare. It is a clear, colourless and tasteless liquid that has no odour in its pure form. Nerve agents are, according to the CDC, the most toxic and rapidly acting of the known chemical warfare agents. They work by disrupting the mechanisms through which nerves transfer messages to organs by blocking an important enzyme, causing glands and muscles to be constantly stimulated.

Menlo Park fire marshal Jon Johnston confirmed that authorities had been monitoring the condition of two individuals they feared could have been exposed, though ultimately showed no symptoms. Subsequent reports have said the individuals were cleared for possible exposure and that no one has been harmed.

A spokesperson from Facebook has confirmed to Siliconrepublic.com that at 11am PDT, mail delivered to one of the mailrooms was deemed to be suspicious, though added that the results for tests for potentially dangerous substances came back negative.

“As part of Facebook’s routine mail security screening process, we identified a potentially dangerous substance,” said Anthony Harrison, director of corporate media relations at the company.

“Out of an abundance of caution, we evacuated four nearby buildings and began a thorough investigation in coordination with local authorities.

“Authorities have confirmed test results were negative for any potentially dangerous substance and the buildings have been cleared for repopulation. Our rigorous security and safety procedures worked as intended to limit exposure and keep our people safe.”

A sign at the entrance to the Facebook world headquarters. Image: maglara/Depositphotos

Eva Short was a journalist at Silicon Republic