Emergency Response Procedures: Suspicious Packages

Everyone is familiar with news stories about celebrities or politicians receiving ticking parcels or mail laced with mysterious powders. Sometimes this is a hoax, and the powder is merely corn starch and the ‘bomb’ a well-dressed alarm clock.

But one of the reasons authorities take this so seriously is the danger that these objects represent. Ricin, for example, was popularized in the television series Breaking Bad, and was sent to a US senator in 2013. If inhaled, a lethal dose of ricin is only 22 micrograms. That’s 0.000000776 ounces.

Below are tips taken from our Emergency Response Procedures guide book, which is available at no cost to all CSD Pool members. If you would like a copy, you can request one at our website.

What makes a package ‘suspicious?’
✓ It was delivered by someone other than a regular courier (USPS, FedEx, UPS, etc.)
✓ It was left with no evidence of shipping
✓ It may be packaged with twine, and not tape
✓ The package is lopsided or bulging
✓ It bears a hand-written message such as “confidential” or “private”
✓ It lists no return address
✓ Labels exhibit poor handwriting and spelling
✓ It has leaks, stains, protruding wires, odors, or powders

If you discover a suspicious package
1. Put the item down and notify management
2. DO NOT open, submerge, hide, shake or empty the package
3. If it is in an envelope, place it carefully in a plastic bag or cover it with a coat or cloth
4. Wash your hands with soapy water
5. Call the authorities as appropriate
6. Cooperate fully with the police

If you discover a suspicious substance (powder, liquid, etc.)
1. Secure the area around the substance
2. Investigate any possible legitimate sources of this substance (drywall dust, baking soda, etc.)
3. Ascertain if your district has received any threatening letters, emails, or phone calls
4. If neither 2 nor 3 can be confirmed, call 911 and follow instructions given by law enforcement
5. Prepare a list of exposed objects, areas, and individuals for the police and paramedics

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