Pipe bombs mailed to well-known political leaders and high-profile individuals have heightened anxiety across the country this week. The first device discovered was delivered to CNN, at the Time Warner Center in New York City. The packages sent to those under Secret Service protection were immediately identified as explosive devices during routine mail screening procedures and were handled appropriately. Others were re-routed by the postal service to forwarding or other addresses.
While the intent of the sender remains unclear, these packages are textbook examples of suspicious mail, including the labels, size and postage. It is almost as though the sender looked up an old poster from the Post Office and sought to include as many suspicious elements as possible. In this case, the address labels were typed in bold, block print on a white background; each package also had six large American flag stamps.
There are many off factors that set a suspicious package apart from common correspondence. The important challenge for security programs is to maintain vigilance among mail recipients and empower these recipients to express doubt as to the legitimacy of a package, even if this requires an interruption in work (such as calling the sender to confirm legitimacy).
Have policies and procedures in place to deal with mailroom security.
Conduct security training for mailroom personnel and other employees who handle packages (e.g., front desk, administrative staff, etc.) so they are alert for unusual activity and suspicious packages.
In the event of a suspicious package, be sure to document the location of the mail or package along with a list of names of the persons in the immediate area of the suspicious item. Law enforcement will provide guidance regarding shelter-in-place or evacuation. However, if you feel you are in immediate danger, calmly evacuate the area. Distance and protective cover are the best ways to reduce injury from a bomb.