Last week, the New York offices of CNN received a highly suspicious package, appearing to resemble a pipe bomb, that necessitated the evacuation of all personnel from the building. This event was widely publicized by national media outlets and shortly after, a flurry of copycat packages began to arrive at the offices of many organizations nationwide.

In most cases, these packages are harmless. However, there’s always a chance the package could be life-threatening or cause serious damage to property. In these uncertain times, it’s very important for your organization to be prepared pre-incident, have a plan, and ensure everyone is educated on how to handle a suspicious package.

How to Spot a Suspicious Package

Spotting a suspicious package is not as challenging as one might think. By simply being observant, you should be able to identify a suspicious package quickly and mitigate your risk for further issues.

Here is what you should look for when trying to identify a suspicious package:

  1. Inaccurate spelling – Often, a key feature of a suspicious mail or packages is inaccurate spelling of names, titles, and locations.
  2. No return address – If someone is sending a life-threatening package, they likely won’t be giving you a return address, so be sure to double check this when you receive a package with no return address.
  3. Excessively marked packages – Packages that have “RUSH: Do not delay,” “Personal,” or “Confidential” should be carefully looked at.
  4. Postmarked different than return address – If the postmarked location is different than the return address, that is a sign that the letter or package is suspicious.
  5. Unprofessionally wrapped packages – If the package uses an excessive amount of tape, strings etc. then you should be wary of the package.
  6. Excessive postage – If an envelope or package has an excessive amount of postage, that is a warning sign the item might be suspicious.
  7. Buzzing or ticking sound – This one goes without saying, but if the package is making a buzzing, ticking, or any other odd noise, you should not open it.

How Do I Handle a Suspicious Package?

Once you have identified that the package you have received looks a bit suspicious, you need to take the proper precautions until authorities arrive. Here are a few things you can do in the meantime:

  • Do not open the suspicious letter or package
  • If contents have spilled, do not touch, sniff, taste or get very close to it
  • Do not touch your face or anyone else before washing your hands thoroughly with soap and water
  • Isolate the package and leave the immediate area
  • Write down what was suspicious about the package while you wait for authorities to arrive
  • Make a list of everyone who has had contact with the package
  • Do not move, open, or disturb the package or envelope in any way
  • Do not put the item in a confined space or put it in water
  • Open windows, if possible, to assist in venting the exposed area

If you have reason to believe that a package or envelope is suspicious, do not chance it. While yes, the possibility of it being dangerous is low, it’s better to be safe than sorry. You should immediately call 911 and clear the immediate area until the police have arrived.

Preparing, pre-incident, for critical events like suspicious packages is a necessity. At Preparis, we not only provide bi-directional mass emergency notification during the incident, but cloud-access to a deep library of expert content that includes training videos and tabletop exercises that will ensure organizational readiness before a disruptive incident occurs. If you would like to learn more about how to keep your workforce prepared, protected, and ready to respond, please click here.