Mail handling security advisory includes safety tips

Wednesday , July 21, 2010 - 3:19 PM comment

Steven G. Nutt - Installation Antiterrorism officer

According to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, few aspects of our society are as safe as the U.S. Mail. In fact, postal inspectors say they have only investigated an average of 16 mail bombs over the past few years while the postal service has processed more than 170 billion pieces of mail.

That being said, the Installation Antiterrorism Office would like to remind all Hill Air Force affiliated personnel that the threat does exist, and would like to take this opportunity to promote mail handling security and increase public awareness of the threat posed by receiving deadly materials in the mail.

Although the odds of receiving dangerous mail are extremely unlikely, those that have been identified to date have had some very common characteristics. The following are some characteristics that have repeatedly shown up in the appearance of mail bombs and suspicious packages:

  • Excessive postage
  • Return address may be fictitious or nonexistent
  • The postmark is a different location than the return address
  • Mail bombs may bear restricted endorsements, such as "Personal" or "Private." This is particularly important when the addressee does not usually receive personal mail at the office.
  • Mail bombs may display distorted handwriting or the name and address may be prepared with homemade labels or cut-and-paste lettering.
  • Parcel bombs may be unprofessionally wrapped with several combinations of tape used to secure the package and may be endorsed "Fragile -- Handle With Care" or "Rush -- Do Not Delay"
  • Letter bombs may feel rigid, or appear uneven or lopsided
  • Package bombs may have an irregular shape, soft spots or bulges
  • Mail bombs may have protruding wires, aluminum foil or oil stains and may emit a peculiar odor.

In addition to having similar characteristics, there are several procedures that you can take if you believe that you have received a suspicious item in the mail. If you believe the item to be a bomb use the following checklist:

  • Do not open or handle the article
  • Do not use a phone in the immediate area -- use a phone that is at least 50 feet away or located in the next room
  • If possible, open a window in the immediate area to assist in venting potentially explosive gases
  • Call 911 and report the incident by providing them with the following information:
  • Name
  • Address
  • Location of the device/parcel
  • Characteristics of envelope/parcel that led you to believe it was dangerous
  • Your current location (i.e. neighbors' home across the street)
  • Evacuate all family members a minimum of 100 feet from your residence and inform any next-door neighbors of the situation and their need to evacuate
  • Wait for emergency responders and provide any information they request upon arrival

If you believe the item contains a dangerous substance (liquid or powder) use the following checklist:

  • Do not shake, smell or empty the contents. If the contents are spilled, do not try to clean up the material.
  • Carefully place the letter orpackage into a wastebasket with a plastic bag liner and fold the edges of the liner over the letter or package to prevent leakage
  • Close the windows and doors to the affected room
  • Have any exposed personnel wash hands with soap and water
  • Call 911, and report the incident by providing them with the following information:
  • Name
  • Address
  • Location of the device or parcel
  • Characteristics of envelope or parcel that led you to believe it was dangerous
  • Your current location (i.e. across the street or in my front yard)
  • Evacuate all family members to an area just outside your residence; front yard if possible.
  • Upon evacuation, isolate exposed personnel away from other evacuees, and do not let anyone depart the area until told to do so by the emergency responders.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact the Hill Air Force Base Antiterrorism Office at (8775-5313/14.

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