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Handling of Suspicious Mail / Packages

The following guidelines for handling suspicious letters and packages is based on information provided by the State Department of Health and Centers for Disease Control. It is important to note that the state Health Commissioner has advised that, for routine daily mail handling, use of face masks and gloves is not necessary.

What makes a piece of mail/parcel "suspicious?"

Listed below are some characteristics of suspicious packages and/or letters. Keep in mind that it would likely be a combination of several characteristics and not just one that would require a closer scrutiny of the letter or package. By example, it is not uncommon for employees to receive mail that may have an incorrect title, or a title but no name, or handwritten correspondence.

  • Excessive postage
  • Handwritten or poorly typed addresses
  • Incorrect titles
  • Title, but no name
  • Misspellings of common words
  • Post mark city and or state does not agree with the return address
  • No return address
  • Oily stains, discolorations or odors
  • Excessive weight
  • Lopsided or uneven envelope
  • Protruding wires or aluminum foil
  • Excessive security material such as masking tape, string, etc.
  • Visual distractions
  • Ticking sound
  • Marked with restrictive endorsements, such as "Personal" or "Confidential"
  • Warning words such as "anthrax" or "biohazard"

Steps for handling a suspicious unopened letter or package:

  • Do not shake it or empty the contents of the envelope/package.
  • Place the envelope or package into a plastic bag or some other container to prevent leakage of contents.
  • If you do not have any container, then cover the envelope or package with anything handy, such as clothing, paper, trash cans, etc., and do not remove this covering.
  • Leave the room and close the door or section off the area.
  • Ask co-workers or others to leave the room or area and keep others from entering. Whole building evacuation is not necessary.
  • Notify your supervisor who in turn will contact law enforcement officials by calling 911.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water.

Steps to follow if powder from a suspicious envelope or package has spilled out:

  • Do not try to clean up the powder.
  • Cover the spilled contents immediately with anything (clothing, paper, trash can, etc.).
  • Leave the room and close the door or section off the area. Ask co-workers to leave and prevent others from entering. Whole building evacuation is not necessary.
  • Notify your supervisor who in turn will contact law enforcement officials by calling 911.
  • Individuals coming in direct contact with the suspicious materials should wash the potentially exposed area of their body with soap and water.
  • Supervisor should make a list of all people who were in the room or area at the time of the spill. Especially note those who had contact with the substance. Give this list to both the on scene health officials and law enforcement personnel for follow-up.

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