A report of a suspicious package placed Youth’s Benefit Elementary School in lockdown Friday afternoon as law enforcement authorities responded to the scene.
Students were initially moved to a part of the building furthest away from the threat before eventually being moved to the nearby Parks and Recreation building for dismissal, according to Harford County Public Schools spokeswoman Teri Kranefeld.
Representatives of the State Fire Marshal’s office were brought in to dispose of the package, Kranefeld said. According to Harford County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Monica Worrell, the package, which was located near the school’s flag pole,turned out to contain only cloth pieces, toys, and art supplies. What were initially believed to be wires were in fact ribbons.
Worrell said passing traffic on Route 152 was briefly stopped while the package was opened. Students had already been evacuated at that time.
Parents of the school’s students received two alert messages Friday advising them of the situation, Kranefeld said.
According to the Harford County Sheriff’s Office:
At approximately 12:30 pm on March 18, 2011, Harford County Sheriff’s Office received a call from school personnel regarding a suspicious package located outside of Youth Benefit Elementary School, in Fallston MD. The school was placed in a lock down mode and students were moved to a part of the building furthest away from the location of the package. A K9 Police dog trained in detection was called in to inspect the package and surrounding area. The dog did not alert on any vehicles, but the K9 handler noticed wires coming out of the package (which is the size of a Tuba case). We are currently awaiting the SFMO before proceeding for further inspection and proper disposal.
Students and faculty members have been evacuated to the lower building. We are asking for the communities and parents cooperation though this incident as we are working diligently to ensure their safety.
Later in the evening, at about 7:45 p.m., the Sheriff’s Office released additional information:
At approximately 12:30 pm on Friday, March 18, 2011, Harford County Sheriff’s Office deputies responded to Youth’s Benefit Elementary School in Fallston MD for a suspicious package. The package, a large black plastic container was found outside the building between the flagpole and the main building.
Deputies’ initial observations indicated red and bluish materials protruding from the top of the package. Due to the uncertainty of the packages contents, precaution were implemented and it was treated as an explosive device
Maryland State Police explosive K9 unit arrived on the scene at approximately 1:15pm. While the K9, trained in detection did not alert on any vehicles surrounding the package, due to the unique characteristics of the package, the decision was made to wait for the State of Maryland Fire Marshal’s office for inspection and removal.
Utilizing a tactical robot, the State Fire Marshal’s Office technicians were able to secure and open the package. It contained toys, art materials and cloth pieces. What had originally appeared to be wires protruding from the case, on closer inspection were determined to be pieces of ribbons.
Traffic was stopped on SR152 (Mountain Road) from the south entrance of Youth Benefit Elementary School to Pleasantville Road, for a short time while the suspicious package was secured and opened.
As a precautionary measure during the incident, students and faculty were immediately relocated from the school’s primary building to the school’s intermediate building. Students were then escorted by faculty members and Harford County Sheriff’s Office School Resource Officers to the Parks n Rec Center for their dismissal. Parents were first notified of the situation by the school’s AlertNow system. They were updated with a second call, which notified parents that the dismissal procedure had changed and students should be picked up from the Parks n Rec Center.
Teri Kranefeld, Harford County Public School Communications Manager stated, “the Youth’s Benefit Elementary students and faculty should be commended for remaining calm and following the evacuation plan they learned during drills throughout the year.”
The State Fire Marshal’s Office declared the area safe and precautionary measures were lifted. An agent form the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Baltimore Office examined the dismantled package and Harford County Sheriff’s Office secured and cleared the incident scene at approximately 4:35pm.
The cooperative efforts between the Harford County Sheriff’s Office, Maryland State Police, State Fire Marshal’s Office, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Office and the Harford County Board Of Education were instrumental in the seamless handling of today’s incident.