Suspicious Letters/Packages

In the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, many organizations throughout the country received threats of anthrax and other potentially lethal substances through the mail. Concerns were raised that letters or packages received might contain some type of biological, chemical or radiological substance that could jeopardize human life. Most of these threats turned out to be unfounded. Nevertheless, the establishment of procedures to handle these situations is of paramount importance because of the potential for the spread of these dangerous and often lethal substances. These threats can come in many forms, including empty packages and those containing a powdery substance. Sometimes, there is not even a threat, but just a suspicious looking letter of package that may contain powder or a substance that is unusual to be included in a piece of mail.

A.    Reporting Procedures
In the event of receiving a suspicious package or letter on campus, the recipient should immediately call:


    •    University Police Department by dialing 911 or by calling at (203) 392-5375
    •    University Environmental, Health and Safety Officer (EHSO) at (203) 392-6053

B. Notification Procedures for Campus and CSUS
     The senior police officer on duty shall be responsible for the following:

    •    Notifying the Chief of Police or his/her designee, who shall notify university administrators as outlined in Section 3, "Activation and Notification"
    •    Setting up a perimeter in the location of the suspicious package or letter
    •    Isolating the person who has received and/or has been in contact with the package or letter, to prevent a cross-contamination situation
    •    Evacuating the personnel within the immediate area of the package or letter

The EHSO, or his/her designee, will make the initial determination of the suspicious nature of the package or letter.

The EHSO shall notify the Associate Vice President for Capital Budgeting and Facilities Operations, who shall notify the President. The President shall notify the Cabinet and as warranted, the Chancellor.

The following campus notification systems may be activated in case of a suspicious package or letter:

    •    Telephone Tree (initiated by each Vice President and/or designee)
    •    Email Message
    •    Text Messaging
    •    WeatherChek (203) 392-SNOW (7669)
    •    University Police Department Public Address System (in vehicles)
    •    Essential personnel providing direction on safety precautions and procedures

C. Notification Procedures for Other Agencies
The Chief of Police or his /her designee shall be responsible for contacting the following, as needed:

    •    New Haven Police Department at (203) 946-6316
    •    Hamden Police Department at (203) 230-4000
    •    New Haven Fire Department at (203) 946-6237
    •    Hamden Fire Department at (203) 230-4000
    •    State Police Emergency Services Unit (ESU) at (860) 537-7570 and/or State Police Troop I (Bethany) at (203) 393-4200
    •    State Department of Environmental Protection Unit Hotline at (860) 424-3338
    •    Postal Inspection Services, Boston, Mass. (Connecticut District Procedures) at 1-800-300-3492

The EHSO shall be responsible for contacting the following, as needed.
 
    •    Environmental Services Inc. at (860) 528-9500 or (860) 620-9566
(24-hour emergency response company under contract with the state and the university)
    •    If unable to make contact with Environmental Services Inc., the EHSO shall call Clean Harbors at 1-800-645-8265

 
D. Guidelines for Protection/Minimization of Impact    
    •    The room containing the suspicious package or letter is immediately evacuated.  If necessary, the evacuation may extend to the floor or the entire building, depending on the suspicious nature and/or exposure of the substance to the handler(s).

    •    The Incident Command System (ICS) is implemented.
    •    Personnel who will perform the cleanup must be trained to a minimum of Emergency Response Technician level 29CFR1910.120 and must be under the control of the Incident Commander.


E. Individual and Group Safety Information
   The following are important safety guidelines for anyone who may come into contact   with a suspicious letter of package:

HOW TO IDENTIFY SUSPICIOUS PACKAGES AND LETTERS

Some characteristics of suspicious packages and letters include the following:
    •    Excessive postage
    •    Handwritten or poorly typed addresses
    •    Incorrect titles
    •    Title, but no name
    •    Misspelling of common words
    •    Oily stains, discolorations or odor
    •    No return address
    •    Excessive weight
    •    Lopsided or uneven envelope
    •    Protruding wires of aluminum foil
    •    Excessive security material (masking tape, string, etc.)
    •    Visual distractions
    •    Ticking sound
    •    Marked with restrictions, such as "Personal" or "Confidential"
    •    Shows a city or state in the postmark that does not match the return address

HANDLING SUSPICIOUS/THREATENING UNOPENED LETTERS/PACKAGES
    •    Do not shake or empty the contents of any suspicious envelope or package.  
    •    PLACE the envelope or package in a plastic bag or some other type of container to prevent leakage of contents.
    •    If you do not have a container, then COVER the envelope or package with anything (e.g., clothing, paper, trash can, etc.) and do not remove this cover. Then LEAVE the room and CLOSE the door, or section off the area to prevent others from entering (i.e., keep others away).
    •    WASH your hands with soap and water to prevent spreading any powder to your face.
    •    Isolating all persons exposed to the contents in another area nearby, to avoid contaminating others. Do not leave the area until advised to do so by local law enforcement and/or emergency medical personnel.
    •    Report the incident to the University Police Department by dialing 911 or by calling (203) 392-5375.
    •    Notify your building supervisor or an available supervisor.
    •    List all people who were in the room or area when this suspicious letter or package was recognized. Give this list to both the university (EHSO) and law enforcement officials for follow-up investigations and advice.

HANDLING ENVELOPE WITH POWDER AND POWER SPILLS
    •    Remain calm
    •    Anthrax organisms can cause infection in the skin, gastrointestinal system, or the lungs. These organisms must be rubbed into abraded skin, swallowed, or inhaled as a fine, aerosolized mist. Disease can be prevented after exposure to the anthrax spores by early treatment with the appropriate antibiotics. Anthrax is not spread from one person to another person.
    •    For anthrax to be effective as a covert agent, it must be aerosolized into very small particles. This is difficult to do and requires a great deal of technical skill and special equipment. If these small particles are inhaled, life-threatening lung infection can occur, but prompt recognition and treatment are effective.
    •    DO NOT try to CLEAN UP the powder. COVER the spilled contents immediately with anything (e.g., clothing, paper, trash can, etc.) and do not remove this cover!
    •    Then LEAVE the room and CLOSE the door, or section off the area to prevent others from entering and stay outside the effected area.
    •    WASH your hands with soap and water to prevent spreading any powder to your face.
    •    Report the incident to the University Police Department by dialing 911 or by calling (203) 392-5375.
    •    Notify your building supervisor or an available supervisor.
    •    Isolate all persons exposed to the contents in another area nearby. Do not leave the area until advised to do so by local law enforcement and/or emergency medical personnel.
    •    REMOVE heavily contaminated clothing as soon as possible and place in a plastic bag, or some other container that can be sealed. This clothing bag should be given to the emergency responders for proper handling.
    •    SHOWER with soap and water as soon as possible. Do Not Use Bleach Or Other Disinfectant On Your Skin.
    •    List all people who were in the room or area, especially those who had actual contact with the powder. Give this list to the EHSO, health authorities and law enforcement personnel, so that proper instructions can be given for medical follow-up and to law enforcement officials for further investigation.

HANDLING POSSIBLE CONTAMINATION BY AIR (AEROSOLIZATION)
    •    Turn off local fans or ventilation units in the area.

    •    LEAVE area immediately.
    •    CLOSE the door, or section off the area to prevent others from entering.
    •    Report the incident to the University Police Department by dialing 911 or by calling (203) 392-5375.
    •    Isolate all persons exposed to the contents in another area nearby. Do not leave the area until advised to do so by local law enforcement and/or emergency medical personnel.
    •    List all people who were in the room or area. Give this list to the EHSO, health authorities and law enforcement personnel, so that proper instructions can be given for further investigation and/or medical follow-up.

HANDLING POSSIBLE RADIOLOGICAL CONTAMINATION
    •    Limit exposure by not handling the identified parcel.
    •    Evacuate the area immediately.
    •    Shield yourself from the suspected parcel.
    •    Isolate all persons exposed to the contents in another nearby area. Do not leave the area until advised to do so by local fire department/HAZMAT personnel.  

HANDLING POSSIBLE MAIL BOMB
    •    Keep in mind that a bomb can be enclosed in either a package or an envelope, and its outward appearance is limited only by the imagination of the bomber. But some unique characteristics of mail bombs may assist the identification of a suspect mailing. To apply these characteristics, it is important to know the type of mail your organization receives.
    •    Mail bombs may bear restricted endorsements such as "Personal" or "Private." These characteristics are important when the addressee does not usually receive personal mail at the office.
    •    Addressee's name or title may be inaccurate.
    •    Return address may be fictitious or not available.
    •    Mail bombs may have distorted handwriting or the name and address may be prepared with homemade labels or cut-and-paste lettering.
    •    Mail bombs may have protruding wires, aluminum foil, or oil stains and may emit a peculiar odor.
    •    Cancellation or postmark may show a different location than the return address.
    •    Mail bombs may have excessive postage.
    •    Letter bombs may feel rigid, or appear uneven or lopsided.
    •    Package 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."
    •    Package bombs may have an irregular shape, soft spots, or bulges.
    •    Package bombs may make a sloshing sound. Although placed devices may buzz or tick, mailed bombs generally do not.
    •    Pressure or resistance may be noted when removing contents from an envelope or package.
If you are suspicious of a mailing and are unable to verify the contents with the addressee or sender:
    •    DO NOT OPEN!!!
    •    Isolate the mailing and evacuate the immediate area.
    •    Do NOT put it in water or in a confined space, such as a desk drawer or filing cabinet.
    •    If possible, open windows in the immediate area to assist in venting potentially explosive gases.
    •    If you have any reason to believe a letter or package is suspicious, do not take a chance or worry about possible embarrassment if the item turns out to be innocent. Instead, contact the University Police Department by dialing 911 or by calling at (203) 392-5375.

HANDLING A CONTRAPTION-LADEN SUSPICIOUS PACKAGE OR LETTER
If the situation arises in which someone inadvertently opened a suspicious letter or package containing a contraption, such as wires or batteries, take the following steps:    

    •    Leave the letter or package where it is, EXIT the room and CLOSE the door           to the room.
    •    Evacuate the area.
    •    Dial 911.
    •    Provide information to police officers, as they arrive.