Updated: New white powder incidents
UPDATE: According to the New York Post:
The white powdery substance discovered at the Israeli Consulate in Manhattan was inside a threatening letter to Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, police sources said Saturday. The package, which was discovered around 1:30 p.m. Friday was addressed to the consulate’s East 42nd Street and Second Avenue location. Security deemed the envelope suspicious after noting the absence of a return address, the sources said.
There was, at least, one similar incident reported on Friday and taken together, they are a reminder that organizations and leaders should be vigilant about their mail screening processes.
All businesses that have mailrooms should review their handling procedures with staff. Please advise your mailroom personnel not to handle letters or packages that look suspicious (discoloration, stains, or emits an odor).Personnel should immediately leave the area and dial 911. Personnel should make sure that no one re-enters the area until the NYPD/FDNY Hazmat Unit declares it safe.
A comprehensive “Best Practices for Mail Screening and Handling” guide from DHS is available here. Check out Safe Mail Handling from DHS and find the USPS page on mail security, including suspicious mail and packages, here.
Consider the following:
- Larger organizations should continue to screen and x-ray their mail. The USPS best practices for mail center security can be found here. It contains an excellent chapter, “Protect Your Business from Package Bombs and Bomb Threats”.
- All organizations, large and small, need to examine all mail and packages, whether delivered via the post office, UPS, FedEx, other carrier or hand delivered.
- Whether or not your organization has a mail room, designate and train specific people to screen your organization’s mail. Make sure that they know what your screening protocols are and know what to do if they find anything suspicious.
- Screen your mail in a separate room. That way if you find anything suspicious, you can easily isolate it.
- If you believe that an envelope or package contains a hazardous substance (e.g., an unknown white powder) instruct your screener to avoid inhaling the particulates, wash his/her hands with soap and room temperature water and isolate him/her in an adjoining, designated area away from the substance and await instructions from the first responders (This will take some planning. You don’t want anyone walking past the other employees and possibly contaminating them).
- If you deem an item to be suspicious:
- Do not open it.
- Do not shake it.
- Do not examine or empty the contents.
- Leave the room.
- Close the door.
- Alert others in the area.
- Call 911.
- Shut down your HVAC (heating, ventilation and cooling) systems, if possible.
- Consider whether you want to vacate your premises.
If you have a specific question about a package mailed to you, you can contact:
PO BOX 555
NEW YORK NY 10116-0555