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[whitespace] Long-forgotten device turns up and spooks local hospital

Los Gatos--The staff at Mission Oaks Hospital recently learned a hard lesson about keeping track of items and the importance of labels.

On May 10, at 9:48 a.m., the staff at Mission Oaks, on Los Gatos-Almaden Road, called 911 to report a suspicious device that was found in the hospital's basement.

When Los Gatos-Monte Sereno police officers and county fire personnel arrived, they were told that the hospital's facility engineer had found a device that resembled a bomb. According to LG-MSPD Sgt. Kerry Harris, the device was on a cardboard box and had a plastic pipe, silly putty stuck on both sides, batteries on top and wires running from the batteries to the pipe.

Police immediately evacuated the 12 patients and more than 30 staff workers, who went to a smaller Mission Oaks facility nearby. The hospital's portion of Los Gatos-Almaden Road was closed off during the evacuation. Police also called on the bomb unit from the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Department.

At about 11:30 a.m., bomb technicians used an X-ray machine and determined that the device had merely been built to look like a bomb, and did not contain explosives. Patients and staff returned to the hospital less than an hour after being evacuated, as police continued with their investigation.

After questioning staff members, the officers found that an employee had originally put the device in the basement. The employee had built the fake bomb years before to use in a bomb threat evacuation-emergency preparedness drill. The drill had been a success, and the employee stored the device in the basement. The hospital apparently forgot about the device--and its original use--until the facility engineer found it on May 10 and assumed it was a genuine threat.

Melanie Norall, director of community relations at Mission Oaks, said that the hospital was not planning on disciplining any employee, because the device was used several years before and the employee was probably no longer working for the hospital.

"It was good for us to get to practice the drill again," Norall said.
Gloria I. Wang

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