Is Your Mail Room Poisonous?


Sarin, a nerve agent often used in chemical warfare, was recently detected at Facebook’s Menlo Park offices following a routine test at a mail facility. Sarin is concerning because it easily evaporates from a liquid to gas therefore exposure can come from skin contact or inhalation. This deadly agent may cause convulsions, loss of consciousness and respiratory failure. When the package tested positive for sarin, Facebook management evacuated four buildings and the FBI was called in to investigate.

Although the investigation revealed that sarin was not present in Facebook's mail, this recent situation should prompt a review of operational security, especially in the unassuming environment of a mail room. In this case, Facebook has mail screening technology in place but not every organization can implement this security measure. Given the vast number of employees who may receive mail and packages at work, mail handling is often overlooked as an area requiring specific security and life-safety procedures.

Takeaway: It is essential to have protocols in place for handling suspicious packages and attending to employees who may have been exposed to hazardous substances. Security best practices include workforce training so all mail security procedures are understood by mail room personnel and other employees who are responsible for handling mail and packages in the workplace.

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