October 17, 2001

 US Postal Service - What To Do If You Receive An Anthrax Threat 

USPS Message to Customers
We Are Taking Every Possible Measure
To Assure Safety Of Customers And The Mail

 The Postal Service places the highest priority on the safety of its employees and customers and the security of the U.S. Mail. We are taking every possible measure to assure the safety of all. We are working tirelessly to keep the mail moving and to keep customers and our employees safe and secure.

 America's postal employees have done an outstanding job of keeping the mail moving since Sept 11. We have delivered more than 20 billion pieces of mail since the tragedy. It's important to remember that these are isolated incidents.

 While we are taking every possible precaution, we understand the importance of America's mail to its people and its economy and we will continue to deliver it.

 We are coordinating our efforts with the FBI and the Department of Health and Human Services. Our Chief Postal Inspector is working with the mailing industry to strengthen the security of business mailrooms. We have established a Mail Security Task Force on hazardous biological and chemical materials that will include our unions, management associations, major mailers, and senior postal managers.

 Now more than ever, America is depending on the Postal Service to keep the mail moving safely and securely. Everyone needs to mobilize common sense in dealing with this unfamiliar situation.

The information below describes how to identify a suspicious mail piece and the procedures to follow:

 What constitutes a suspicious letter or parcel?

anthrax bacillus under microscope
anthrax, sheep, hand-infected
Source of many pictures re Anthrax
Some typical characteristics which ought to trigger suspicion include letters or parcels that:

  • Have any powdery substance on the outside.
  • Are unexpected or from someone unfamiliar to you.
  • Have excessive postage, handwritten or poorly typed address, incorrect titles or titles with no name, or misspellings of common words.
  • Are addressed to someone no longer with your organization or are otherwise outdated.
  • Have no return address, or have one that can't be verified as legitimate.
  • Are of unusual weight, given their size, or are lopsided or oddly shaped.
  • Have an unusual amount of tape.
  • Are marked with restrictive endorsements, such as "Personal" or "Confidential."
  • Have strange odors or stains.

     What Should I do if I Receive an Anthrax Threat by Mail?

  • Do not handle the mail piece or package suspected of contamination.
  • Make sure that damaged or suspicious packages are isolated and the immediate area cordoned off.
  • Ensure that all persons who have touched the mail piece wash their hands with soap and water.
  • Notify your local law enforcement authorities.
  • List all persons who have touched the letter and/or envelope. Include contact information and have this information available for the authorities.
  • Place all items worn when in contact with the suspected mail piece in plastic bags and have them available for law enforcement agents.
  • As soon as practical, shower with soap and water.
  • Notify the Center for Disease Control Emergency Response at 770-488-7100 for answers to any questions.

    The mail is safe! People shouldn't stop using the mail because of these isolated incidents. The simple act of paying attention to incoming mail will go a long way in keeping it safe and viable. Everyone, in the mailing community, as well as the American public, should exercise common sense.

    Additional information is available on the Postal Service's official web site at www.USPS.com