Category Archive: Suspicious Packages

Rethinking mail screening

Due to critical intelligence information two sophisticated explosive devices shipped via air cargo with explosives were intercepted before detonation. John Brennan, the deputy national security adviser, said on Sunday that there might be additional devices like the two discovered last Friday.

Both of these packages were addressed to former addresses of synagogues in the Chicago area. However, investigators are still attempting to determine whether the devices were meant to explode in transit or at their ultimate destination.

General guidance
We continue to advise Jewish institutions to carefully screen their mail and packages. Be suspicious of any item coming from an unknown sender, especially unknown senders from overseas. Both devices were sent from Yemen, but some analysts speculate that terrorists might send devices to other countries for subsequent rerouting.

If you receive a package from an unknown sender and suspect that it could be an explosive device or it may contain a hazardous substance, do not disturb it, do not try to open it. Leave the room, close the door and call 911. Other suggestions for mail screening are provided below.

Classic suspicious mail guidance
While the classic mail and package security guidance is still applicable, terrorists are highly intelligent and adaptable. Remember: Be suspicious of any item coming from an unknown sender, especially unknown senders from overseas. It also pays to be wary of envelopes and/or packages with the following markers, even if the package is sent from the U.S.:

  • No return address
  • Restrictive markings (e.g., confidential, personal)
  • Rigid or bulky
  • Strange odor
  • Lopsided or uneven
  • Excessive tape or string
  • Misspelled words/outdated names or titles
  • Addressed to title only (e..g., “Chief Executive Officer” rather than “John Doe, Chief Executive Officer”)
  • Incorrect title
  • Badly typed or written
  • Possibly mailed from a foreign country
  • Excessive postage

Recommended mail protocols 
We recommend that organizations consider and adopt formal mail screening protocols, appropriate for their organization, staff and building. Your protocols should consider that a variety of hazards can arrive by mail, including explosives and toxins.  Your protocols may include steps, such as:

  1. 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”.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Screen your mail in a separate room. That way if you find anything suspicious, you can easily isolate it.
  5. 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).
  6. 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.

    Plot Involving Suspicious Packages

    Key Points from the NYPD
    • Since Thursday night, law enforcement officials identified two suspicious packages addressed to two synagogues in Chicago. 
    • Initial reports indicate that the packages contain explosive material. Forensic analysis is underway. 
    • The packages were discovered in Dubai and East Midlands Airport in the United Kingdom. 
    • Cargo planes at Newark International Airport and Philadelphia International Airport originating in Yemen were searched for similar suspicious packages. 
    • Media reports indicate that one woman was arrested in Yemen on suspicion of mailing the packages and that authorities are searching for others.
    Implications for New York City 
    • The NYPD is working closely with our federal partners in the intelligence community to investigate this incident. 
    • At this time, there is no known specific threat to New York City connected to this incident. 
    • The NYPD recommends that all New Yorkers remain vigilant. 
    • In the event a suspicious package is found, call 911 and do not handle it.
    Implications for the Jewish community
    • There are no known additional specific threats to Jewish institutions at this time.
    • Jewish institutions continue to be targeted by those wishing to attack the United States.
    • Jewish communal institutions should review their security precautions and ensure continued vigilance, both for mail and direct threats.
    • Jewish communal institutions and known leaders should be suspicious of any packages from unknown senders. Terrorists know how to adapt. Do not assume that bombs only come from Yemen. 
    • In the event a suspicious package is found, do not handle it and call 911. Be prepared to evacuate your building.