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How to Handle a Mailed Anthrax Threat

Adapted from the CDC Health Advisory of October 12, 2001

Identifying Suspicious Packages and Envelopes

Adapted from the CDC Health Advisory October 31, 2001

Some characteristics of suspicious packages and envelopes include the following:

  • Inappropriate or unusual labeling
    • Excessive postage
    • Handwritten or poorly typed addresses
    • Misspellings of common words
    • Strange return address or no return address
    • Incorrect titles or title without a name
    • Not addressed to a specific person
    • Marked with restrictions, such as "Personal," "Confidential," or "Do not x-ray"
    • Marked with any threatening language
    • Postmarked from a city or state that does not match the return address
  • Appearance
    • Powdery substance felt through or appearing on the package or envelope
    • Oily stains, discolorations, or odor
    • Lopsided or uneven envelope
    • Excessive packaging material such as masking tape, string, etc.
  • Other suspicious signs
    • Excessive weight
    • Ticking sound
    • Protruding wires or aluminum foil

If a package or envelope appears suspicious, DO NOT OPEN IT.

Envelope with Powder and Powder Spills Out onto Surface:

  1. Do not try to clean up the powder. Cover the spilled contents immediately with anything (e.g., clothing, paper, trash can, etc.) and do not remove this cover!
  2. Then leave the room and close the door, or section off the area to prevent others from entering (i.e., keep others away).
  3. Wash your hands with soap and water to prevent spreading any powder to your face.
  4. What to do next-
    • If you are at home, then report the incident to local police.
    • If you are at work, then report the incident to local police, and notify your building security official or an available supervisor.
  5. Remove heavily contaminated clothing as soon as possible and place in a plastic bag, or some other container that can be sealed. This clothing bag should be given to the emergency responders for proper handling.
  6. Shower with soap and water as soon as possible. Do Not Use Bleach Or Other Disinfectant On Your Skin.
  7. If possible, list all people who were in the room or area, especially those who had actual contact with the powder. Give this list to both the local public health authorities so that proper instructions can be given for medical follow-up, and to law enforcement officials for further investigation.

Question of Room Contamination by Aerosolization:

For example: small device triggered, warning that air handling system is contaminated, or warning that a biological agent released in a public space.

  1. Turn off local fans or ventilation units in the area.
  2. Leave area immediately.
  3. Close the door, or section off the area to prevent others from entering (i.e., keep others away).
  4. What to do next-
    • If you are at home, then dial "911" to report the incident to local police and the local FBI field office.
    • If you are at work, then dial "911" to report the incident to local police and the local FBI field office, and notify your building security official or an available supervisor.
  5. Shut down air handling system in the building, if possible.
  6. If possible, list all people who were in the room or area. Give this list to both the local public health authorities so that proper instructions can be given for medical follow-up, and to law enforcement officials for further investigation.

Handling of Suspicious Packages or Envelopes*

Adapted from the CDC Health Advisory October 31, 2001

  • Do not shake or empty the contents of any suspicious package or envelope.
  • Do not carry the package or envelope, show it to others or allow others to examine it.
  • Put the package or envelope down on a stable surface; do not sniff, touch, taste, or look closely at it or at any contents which may have spilled.
  • Alert others in the area about the suspicious package or envelope. Leave the area, close any doors, and take actions to prevent others from entering the area. If possible, shut off the ventilation system.
  • WASH hands with soap and water to prevent spreading potentially infectious material to face or skin. Seek additional instructions for exposed or potentially exposed persons.
  • If at work, notify a supervisor, a security officer, or a law enforcement official. If at home, contact the local law enforcement agency.
  • If possible, create a list of persons who were in the room or area when this suspicious letter or package was recognized and a list of persons who also may have handled this package or letter. Give this list to both the local public health authorities and law enforcement officials.
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