A car rental company located near BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport in Hanover was evacuated for more than four hours on Friday night after employees noticed a suspicious device and alerted police, according to the Maryland State Fire Marshal.
The device, which had been made to resemble an explosive, was ultimately deemed a "hoax" after the state's bomb squad responded and approached it in the facility's vehicle return cleaning area with a robot, the fire marshal said.
Officials first responded to the Avis Car Rental facility in the 7400 block of New Ridge Road about 8:28 p.m., and quickly evacuated and secured the area, said Deputy State Fire Marshal Caryn McMahon.
McMahon said she did not know exactly what the device looked like, but it was "probably something to scare people" and designed in a way that "would lead us to believe that it could possibly be an explosive device," she said.
"It could be used as a prank or a scare tactic," she said. "I don't know if [investigators] have an answer to that."
Personnel from the fire marshal's office, the state bomb squad, and the fire departments of both Anne Arundel County and BWI all responded to the scene, she said. The Maryland Transportation Authority's explosive K-9 unit also responded to sweep the entire area for other devices, she said.
None were found.
McMahon said a person who intentionally plants a device that resembles an explosive can be charged with a felony that carries a sentence of up to 25 years in prison. It is the same charge that people who plant real explosives receive, she said.
An investigation into the source of the device is ongoing. Anyone with information is asked to call the state fire marshal's bomb squad at 410-859-7152.