Dealing with suspect packages

Potential hazards

  • incendiary devices
  • explosive devices
  • chemical or biological contamination
  • sharp blades / needles

Look for the following

  • the postmark - is it foreign?
  • do you normally get letters or parcels from this country?
  • is the name and address of the sender missing?
  • the writing: is it 'unusual' in style. Do you recognise it?
  • is there any improper spelling of common names, places or titles?
  • does it have no postage or non-cancelled postage?
  • is it evenly balanced? If the packageĀ is lopsided, treat it as suspect
  • if the weight seems to be excessive for the package's size, treat it as suspect.
  • are there any small holes or pinpoints which could have been made by wires?
  • are there any stains or grease marks, which could be caused by sweating explosives?
  • the feel of the package. In the case of letters, it will indicate whether there is only folded paper inside the envelope or if there is stiffening; for example, cardboard, the feel of metal or the feel of a granular substance, in which cases treat it as suspect
  • does it smell? Some explosives have an aroma of marzipan or almonds
  • can you see if there are any unusual outlines if you hold it up to the light?
  • is the flap of the envelope stuck down completely? (There is usually a small gap.) If so treat it as suspect

What to do with a suspect package

  • do not open it
  • do not bend the envelope or package, or place it in water
  • do place the package on a flat surface, if possible in a sealable container or plastic bag (if it's been opened leave it)
  • do shut the windows in the room
  • do switch off any extract fans / air conditioning
  • do leave the room closing the door.
  • do not go back into the room.
  • do evacuate the building / immediate vicinity keeping clear of the suspect package.
  • do not touch your eyes, nose or other part of your body in case your hands are contaminated
  • do wash your hands thoroughly
  • do keep all evacuated persons available for questioning by the police, do not allow them to disperse
  • do keep all persons who have been near the package together and, as far as possible, isolated from others
  • if possible, ensure that a list is compiled of each member of staff and all visitors names and location within the building at the time of the event, and contact details

Emergency procedures

  • ensure you have an suspect package / evacuation plan in place (fire evacuation system is generally suitable)
  • raise the alarm
  • go to the assembly point
  • contact the emergency services on 999

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