How to Handle a Suspicious Package

 How to Handle a Suspicious Package

The chances of a suspicious package being delivered to a home address are thankfully rare, but they do happen. Companies that receive huge amounts of mail are more at risk but either way, if there is concern that a suspected package has been received, sensible steps can be taken to minimise the risk and danger.

For the purpose of this guide, the term “suspicious package” is any mail that may contain a bomb, or a chemical, biological, radioactive or nuclear substance.

Only you know the kind of mail and packages that you would normally receive and so it should be fairly easy to spot anything that may seem out of the ordinary.

General Mail Handling Tips

  1. Look out for suspicious envelopes or packages that may contain any of the features from the next section
  2. Use a letter opener or other method that is least likely to disturb
    contents when opening mail
  3. Open packages/envelopes with a minimum amount of movement
  4. Do not blow into envelopes
  5. Do not shake or pour out contents
  6. Keep your hands away from your nose and mouth while opening mail
  7. Wash your hands after handling mail

Features of a Suspicious Package

If several of the following features are present, the package may be suspicious.

  • More postage than needed and many low-value stamps
  • No return address or the return address is foreign
  • Your details are not correct or not spelled correctly
  • There is too much wrap, binding, tape, or tying material
  • You can feel wiring, foil or powder inside
  • The package feels too heavy. They may have an irregular shape with soft spots or bulges
  • The letter or package is dirty, oil- or grease-stained or leaking
  • There is a funny smell
  • Letter bombs may feel rigid, or appear uneven or lopsided
  • Envelope with powder or powder-like residue
  • Postmark that does not match return address

For obvious reasons, not all mail and packages that may carry any of the traits listed above are suspicious. Packages coming from people that you know should be fine as well as packages being delivered after ordering books, food, or clothing online.

What Should I do if I Suspect a Bomb?

First off, you have a right not to accept any package that is delivered to your door. If you already have the package in your possession and you believe that it may contain a bomb, do the following:

  • Do not attempt to open it
  • Isolate the package
  • Leave the area immediately
  • Do not put the item in water, or a confined space such as a desk drawer or filing cabinet.
  • Dial 999(UK) or 911(US)

What Should I do if I Suspect a Harmful Chemical or Biological Substance?

If the package in question is already in your possession, do the following:

  • Remain calm
  • Do not open the letter or package
  • Cover it with a plastic sheet or raincoat or if none is available, leave the package where it is
  • Get everyone out of the room and close all doors and windows
  • Isolate the area where the package is
  • Dial 999(UK) or 911(US)
  • Wait in a safe place (another area) that has a telephone until the emergency responders arrive

What if I’ve Already Opened the Package?

If you have already opened the package and see a powder or a liquid, a threatening letter, and/or an object that you cannot identify, it should be treated with caution.

If you have touched a letter or a package that possibly contains a harmful substance or got some of it on your clothes, do the following:

  • Remain calm.
  • Leave the letter or package where it is
  • Wash your hands thoroughly
  • Remove any clothing that has powder or liquid on it and seal it in a plastic bag
  • Get everyone out of the room and close the door
  • Wash your hands again or shower with soap and water
  • Dial 999(UK) or 911(US)
  • Wait in a safe place (another area) that has a telephone until the emergency responders arrive

The police, other emergency workers, and public health authorities will give you advice about what to do next.

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