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Philadelphia-based Post & Schell was forced to shut down its Harrisburg, Pa., office for three days last week after an employee opened an envelope containing a white, powdery substance. Firm CEO Brian Peters said a mailroom employee opened the letter, which did not have a return address, and came upon the suspicious powder. Police were immediately notified, and authorities deemed the substance a “credible threat” and the office a crime scene. Peters said the firm was told to shut down the office while law enforcement officials investigated further. Peters said all of the office’s 40 employees — including its 15 lawyers — were tested for exposure to any kind of dangerous substance, but police determined that whatever the powder was, it was not communicable and there was no reason to quarantine employees. While the Harrisburg office was closed, employees worked out of the firm’s Lancaster, Pa., office. Post & Schell officials received a call from the Pennsylvania Department of Health on Sunday saying that employees could return to the office, which is actually situated on the outskirts of Harrisburg in Camp Hill, Pa. “They told us that the substance tested negative for anthrax or any other dangerous substance,” said Peters, who retained the services of an environmental consultant to assist the firm in the matter. There was a document in the envelope but Peters said law enforcement officials instructed him not to speak about it publicly. In addition to the police investigation, FBI officials were notified of the incident, but Peters declined to say whether the federal agency was involved to any significant degree. Peters said the firm evaluated its firmwide protocol for handling mail in light of the changed world that has evolved out of the Sept. 11 tragedy and have come up with a safer system. He said the firm is also looking at ways to improve building and office safety in Harrisburg. As for the Harrisburg lawyers and staff, Peters described their attitude through the ordeal as “anxious but professional.” “We really just erred on the side of caution with this,” Peters said. “Our employees are the most important thing here. So we wanted to make sure they were completely safe and secure.” It does not appear that there have been similar scares at other Philadelphia firms — at least ones that firms were willing to discuss publicly. Liberty Place, the city’s tallest building and home to several law firms, has been evacuated twice due to bomb scares since Sept. 11. Larry Bendesky, a partner at Saltz Mongeluzzi Barrett & Bendesky, which is located in Liberty Place, said building management increased security measures since the bomb scares. Access to elevator banks has been funneled to one entrance, at which point tenant employees must display their after-hours elevator access card to an attendant at the front desk during normal business hours. Visitors must all sign in and pick up a visitor pass before using the elevators, Bendesky said. Similar security measures are in place at the Mellon Bank Building.

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