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Suspicious Mail
Mail Threats

In light of the recent events, many have questions about how mail rooms and offices should handle questionable mail; mail that may contain a written threat of chemical or biological material inside, or mail that may contain some form of powder.

First, the risk of contracting any disease from an envelope is extremely low. However, general awareness of one's surroundings and recognition of what constitute suspicious mail is appropriate.

The following are precautionary steps you may take at your workplace or at home.  Following these procedures will reduce your risk of exposure, reduce the spread of contamination, and provide great help to Emergency Response Personnel in dealing with package removal and site clean up and decontamination.

A.  General Procedure for Opening Mail.
  1. Learn about anthrax and other bio-hazardous substances
  2. Learn how to identify suspicious mail and packages, view the FBI Advisory Poster , or the Canadian Postal service Suspicious Mail Alert
  3. DO NOT OPEN any mail that fits the guidelines given by FBI, which contains written threats, or which you do not trust.
  4. Do not open your mail while eating, on the dining room table, on top of important documents, by your VDT* (computer screen) or over your computer keyboard.
  5. Open your mail on a flat, clean, non-porous surface only.
  6. Use a letter opener or a method that is least likely to disturb the contents.
  7. Keep the envelope flat on its side while opening it, and slowly remove its contents.
  8. If you discover anything out of the ordinary, STOP IMMEDIATELY and follow emergency call procedure as described in the Campus Emergency Information booklet.
  9. Do not shake, smell or walk around with the envelope (mail you do not trust).
  10. Keep the item in the same area where it was opened; isolate that specific area of the workplace so that no one touches or disturbs the item.
  11. Evacuation of the entire workplace is NOT necessary.
  12. Wash your hands thoroughly with warm water and soap.
  13. Immediately report your concerns to the University Police or to 911.
  14. The package will be removed from your site by trained personnel.
B.  Procedure for Opened Mail that Contains a Powder.
  1. If you discover anything out of the ordinary, such as a powder or written threats in your opened mail, STOP IMMEDIATELY.
  2. Do Not Panic, Remain Calm
  3. Do not walk around with the letter or shake it.
  4. Do not merely discard the letter.
  5. Isolate the specific area of the workplace or home where the letter was opened so that no one disturbs the item.
  6. Wash your hands thoroughly with warm water and soap.
  7. Follow emergency procedure as described in the Campus Emergency Information booklet.
  8. Call or have someone else call 911 and tell them what you received, and what you have done with it.
  9. Provide your name, your physical location and phone number.
  10. Indicate whether the envelope contains any visible powder or if powder was released.
  11. Do not allow anyone who might have touched the envelope to leave the office or site.
  12. When emergency personnel arrive, they will provide you with further instructions on what to do.
C.  General Precautions for Mailroom Personnel:
  • Do not eat, drink or smoke around mail.
  • If you have open cuts or skin lesions on your hands, disposable gloves may be appropriate.
  • Eye protection or gowns are NOT necessary.
  • Mailroom employees and police officers responding to mail threat situations may use face masks.  Use of the masks is not mandatory.
  • If you discover suspicious envelopes while sorting mail, follow the procedures described above
  • Wash your hands thoroughly with warm water and soap before leaving the work area.
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