Category Archive: Terrorism

More tips for package screening

Wall Street Journal, “Focus on Cargo Security Steps”, November 1, 2010

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.

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.  For specific steps see steps below.

The packages from Yemen discovered last week were designed to be hard to detect, even with an x-ray device. They prove that terrorist tactics are evolving and adapting to our security measures.

Although none of the following suggestions can definitively “rule-in” or “rule-out” a shipment, think about the following before opening any parcel:

  • Was the delivery from an expected shipper? Did your usual UPS driver deliver the package? Was the package from one of your regular vendors? (e.g., The NYPD received a call this week about a printer toner delivery to a Jewish institution. The caller was questioned and told that, because they had ordered the toner and it came from their usual office supply company, the shipment should not be considered suspicious.) Even if the package is from a regular supplier, did it come from the right address. Did it come from overseas?
  • Even without sophisticated equipment you can often tell when something is wrong. Use your “Just Doesn’t Look Right” instincts.
    • Was the package professionally packed? People who regularly order over the internet can probably answer this question.
    • Did someone tamper with this box? Does it appear that the package was opened and resealed? Are there additional layers of tape or different tape and/or fasteners? Are there cut marks on the packaging?
    • Was the package one of a dozen or all by itself?
  • Talk to your mail carrier, FedEx and UPS deliverer. They are your first line of defense and they probably know what kind of packages they deliver to your facility. Ask them about any briefings received about the screening done at their central facilities. Let them know, in a friendly way, that you are “counting on them”.

Recommended mail protocols (from previous post)
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.

If you have a specific question about a package mailed to you, you can contact:

USPS POSTAL INSPECTION SERVICE
PO BOX 555
NEW YORK NY 10116-0555
Phone : 877-876-2455
Thanks to MSA Security for many of these ideas.Check out more security, counterterrorism and emergency preparedness guidance at: www.jcrcny.org/securityresources.

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.

View “Keeping your High Holiday Services Safe and Secure” webinar materials

Posted on August 23, 2010
  • “Access control considerations during high holiday services” (PDF) Dov Horwitz, Security Specialist, JCRC-NY
  •  “Tips on detecting hostile surveillance” (PDF) Paul DeMatties, Senior Advisor on Corporate Security Programs and Director of the Counter-Terrorism Assessment Program, John Jay College of Criminal Justice
  • “Planning for the unexpected: High Holiday edition” (PDF) David Pollock, JCRC-NY
  • View a video transcript of these presentations

The presentation by NYPD Director of Intelligence Analysis Mitch Silber on the evolving al-Qaeda threat and its potential impact on the Jewish community is considered confidential by the NYPD and not available.

Related materials

  • JCRC Emergency and Secrurity Planning Tips for the High Holidays (PDF) The High Holidays are a special challenge for synagogues. Find tips for security and emergency planning here.
  • ADL Security for the High Holy Days and Other Special Events (PDF)
  • Sample Building Access Policies and Procedures (PDF) Learn how to balance the goals of having your institution be both welcoming and secure.
  • Emergency Planning: Disaster and Crisis Response Systems for Jewish Organizations published by United Jewish Communities, written by John Jay College of Criminal Justice and JCRC-NY