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Mail Center Security. Utah State Mail System March 24, 2009. Preparing for Potential Threats in the Mail. Chemical Biological Radiological Nuclear Explosive.

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Mail Center Security

Utah State Mail System

March 24, 2009

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Preparing for Potential Threats in the Mail






Extremely unlikely…but the fear of these materials disrupts operations, incites fear, and often diverts vital first-responder resources.

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Postal Inspectors have investigated mail bombs and other criminal use of explosives for more than 150 years

Chicago Tribune December 7, 1859

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What Does Suspicious Mail Look Like? criminal use of explosives for more than 150 years

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USPS Poster 84 criminal use of explosives for more than 150 years

Request from your local post office

Download from

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Specific Features: Letter Bombs criminal use of explosives for more than 150 years

  • At least ¼ inch thick

  • Bulkier than normal letters

  • Rigid, uneven appearance

  • May have protruding wires or aluminum foil

  • Springiness

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Fictitious criminal use of explosives for more than 150 yearsreturn address

Postmark doesn’t match return address

Poorly wrapped

Distorted handwriting (disguised)

Numerous “fragile” endorsements

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Dangerous Mail Hoaxes appearance alone

This is anthrax…

(or baBy powder…


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False Alarms appearance alone

“This letter seems to be leaking something. What could it be?”


Sticky Liquid

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Help Reduce Suspicious Incidents appearance aloneOutgoing Mail

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When preparing a mailing: appearance alone

  • Include a return address (contacting the mailer often solves the mystery of what they mailed)

  • Check the spelling of names and correct titles

  • Keep address lists current

  • Avoid using excessive amounts of tape or sending oddly-shaped packages

  • Use proper packaging for liquids & powders

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When sending mail: appearance alone

  • Do not mail dangerous materials

  • Remove batteries from items that could turn on

  • Look at the mail from the perspective of your addressee

  • Notify the addressee before sending unusual packages

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Known Mailings Information for First Responders appearance alone

  • We notify police and first responders of known mailings that may generate calls from addressees

  • Notify the Inspection Service if a large mailing of powders or other materials may cause concern for addressees

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Postal Inspectors conduct a threat assessment based on the characteristics of the substance, the mailpiece, and environmental considerations.

Details of the mailpiece are compared against our database of known mailings

If a suspicious item is found in the mail or USPS facilities

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Attempts are made to contact the sender and/or addressee—often a simple telephone call provides information that leads to resolution of the incident

If a suspicious item is found in the mail or USPS facilities


“That package is from my sister. She’s sending me her famous angel food cake mix.”

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Postal Inspector Dangerous Mail Specialists

Dangerous Mail Specialists

Dangerous Mail Specialists have received training in Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response, forensic sampling, improvised explosive device recognition, hazmat and post-blast crime scene processing, and technical use of portable x-ray and field screening equipment.

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Screen incoming mail and packages: Specialists

  • Is it from someone you don’t know?

  • Does the return address appear legitimate?

  • Is its weight unusual for its size?

  • Is it lopsided or uneven?

  • Does it have oily stains or a powdery deposit?

  • Is it sealed with excessive amounts of tape?

  • Is it marked with restrictive words like “Personal” or “Confidential” ?

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Conduct a threat assessment, if appropriate Specialists

  • Are you experiencing any symptoms (difficulty breathing, itching, burning eyes, etc.)?

  • Are you or your organization a likely target?

  • Is there an overt threat (This is ricin…)?

    Have a plan, and follow it.

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If you receive suspicious mail: Specialists

  • Don’t handle it if you suspect it’s contaminated or may contain a dangerous device

    • If possible obtain the sender’s name and address. Contacting the sender often solves the mystery

  • Don’t shake or sniff it or “peek inside”

  • Don’t try to clean up powders or fluids

  • Keep others away from the area

  • Wash your hands for 5 to 10 minutes with soap and water

  • Call your local first responders and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service

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Package Bomb Screening Specialists

Numerous manufacturers offer metal detectors and x-ray units designed for packages

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Assess the realistic risks to your mail center… Specialists…then explore methods to improve security based on your vulnerabilities.Thank you!