Handling of Suspicious Packages or Letters


Don’t Panic if you see something that looks unusual. Remain calm, seek advice, contact your supervisor, and follow proper precautions.

Suspicious parcels or letters may be obvious, or you may have a mere “hunch” that something’s not right. Always be on the lookout for any of the following:

•A powder-like substance on the outside of the envelope or package
•An item received from an unknown person or address
•Excessive postage
•Handwritten or poorly typed address label
•Wrong titles or misspelled words
•Outdated address
•No return address or one that cannot be verified
•Unusual weight of package, lopsided, or oddly shaped
•Visual distractions or “ticking” sound
•Unusual amounts of tape or string
•Unusual odors or stains on the letter or parcel


Occupational Safety & Health Topics: Bioterrorism


Care of suspicious packages/letters should include:

•Turn off fans and ventilation units in the area
•Do not handle the parcel/letter
•NEVER shake or open anything suspicious
•Place the suspicious parcel/letter in a plastic bag, seal tightly, and then double bag it.
•If you cannot safely place the parcel/letter in plastic bags without directly touching it, then cover suspicious item with anything that might be immediately available such as a trash can, clothing, paper … and do not remove this covering.
•If a substance spills from the parcel/letter, do NOT clean it up. Cover as above.
•Leave the room and close the door to prevent others from entering that room.
•Everyone who might have had contact with the parcel/letter should wash their hands with soap and water.
•Notify your supervisor and/or local law enforcement agencies.
•Make a list of all persons who may have had contact with the suspicious item, and give to your supervisor and the law enforcement agency. The CDC Emergency Response Office can help answer questions at (770) 488-7100.
•Remove clothing worn while near the suspicious parcel/letter and double bag in plastic bags. Law enforcement agencies may need to have these for testing.
•As soon as possible, shower with soap and water.
•Do not use bleach or other disinfectant on your skin!


Please visit the CDC's Interim Recommendations for the Selection and Use of Protective Clothing and Respirators Against Biological Agents, and look for the answer to the following questions.

Answer these TRUE/FALSE questions:

When bagging a suspicious letter or parcel, work as quickly as possible.
True
False
Standard firefighter gear is appropriate when responding to calls involving biological agents.
True
False

Protective clothing and equipment should be decontaminated before the user takes them off.
True
False


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