Assessment Flowchart for Suspicious Envelopes or Packages (.PDF file)
U.S. Postal Service Suspicious Mail Alert (.PDF file)
When should I be concerned about an envelope or package?
Most know through the media what constitutes a "suspicious envelope." Authorities now cite some of these indicators: letters that are hand-addressed, perhaps with misspellings; with no return address; with a return address that doesn't match the postmark. Other causes for concern are wires protruding from a package or envelope, an oily stain on the outside; an oddly shaped package or one of unusual weight given its size; powder or granules in or on an envelope or package; excessive postage.
What should I do?
- Common sense and care should be used in inspecting and opening mail or packages.
- Examine unopened envelopes for foreign bodies or powder.
- Do not open letters with your hands: use a letter opener.
- Open letters and packages with a minimum of movement to avoid spilling any contents.
Types of letters that may be suspect:
- Any letter or package that has suspicious or threatening messages written on it.
- Letters with oily stains.
- Envelopes that are lopsided, rigid, bulky, discolored, or have a strange odor.
- Envelopes with no return address.
- Unexpected envelopes from foreign countries.
- No postage, non-cancelled postage, or excessive postage.
- Hand-written address, perhaps improper spelling of common names, places, or titles.
For suspect envelopes:
- DO NOT OPEN THE ENVELOPE OR PACKAGE.
- LEAVE it and EVACUATE the room.
- DO NOT shake, empty, or disturb the contents.
- KEEP others from entering.
- WASH your hands with soap and water.
- NOTIFY your supervisor and Security at x13. From a cell phone or other non-University phone, dial 275-3333.
For packages that are opened and which contain powder:
- DO NOT PANIC. Anthrax organisms can cause skin infection, gastrointestinal infection, or pulmonary infection. To do so, the organism must be able to enter the skin through a cut or scrape or be swallowed or inhaled as a fine, aerosolized mist. It does not leap into the body. All forms of disease are generally treatable with antibiotics.
- Gently close the suspicious letter or package and place it on the nearest flat surface.
- Do not shake, empty, or disturb the contents of any suspicious envelope or package.
- Do not attempt to smell or to closely examine any powder or suspicious substance.
- Do not carry the letter or package for others to examine.
- Do not place the letter or package in a plastic bag or other container.
- Do not attempt to clean up any spilled powder.
- Do not attempt to cover any spilled powder.
- Leave the room immediately and close the doors.
- Wash your hands with soap and water if a sink is available. Do not use bleach or disinfectants on your skin.
- Notify your supervisor and Security at x13. From a cell phone or other non-University phone, dial 275-3333.
- Wait in an adjacent area until responders arrive.
- Do not allow others to enter the area.
- Do not touch your eyes, nose, or any other part of your body.
- If clothing is heavily contaminated, don't brush vigorously.
- Obtain modesty garments from Security and remove contaminated clothing and place in a plastic bas as soon as possible. Shower with soap and water.
- Make a list all of the people who were in the room or area when the suspicious letter or package was recognized.
Updated 10/19/01 based on NYS Department of Health guidelines.
Last modified: Wednesday, 05-Oct-2011 12:55:50 EDT