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Best Practices for Mail Screening and Handling Processes

  • • Conduct a complete risk analysis study of all mail streams within the facility and determine all the weaknesses and strengths of the system. Enumerate the weaknesses and necessary steps to be taken to correct the situation. The United States Postal Service can be of great value in making this determination.
  • • Determine based on mail volume the most efficient, economical means of screening mail and the types of facilities and processes needed to do so including mail centers off-site.
  • • Train all employees of the mail center the necessary techniques and use of equipment for dealing with suspicious mail and packages and how to process them.
  • • Train all personnel in techniques of decontamination in the event a terrorist action occurs.
  • • Use appropriate technologies to determine if explosives are present in letters and packages at high-risk facilities.
  • • For high-risk facilities, establish an off-site screening facility for all deliveries including mail, furniture, food, and other supplies and have security accompany all vehicles with their contents that have been approved to enter into the secure facility.
  • • Provide separate, isolated HVAC systems in lobbies, loading docks, and mail rooms that are susceptible to intake of letters and packages that may contain biochemical weapons.
  • • Personal protective equipment for medium- and high-risk environments where mail and packages may be handled should include a Tyvek suit (a specially woven lightweight high density polyethylene abrasion-resistant material which protects against small size particles), nitrile gloves (protects against chemicals and puncture resistant), foot coverings, and a National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)-approved disposable filtering facepiece respirator. The employees must have annual physicals to determine if they are able to wear the respirators on a regular basis. All personal protective equipment should be put on prior to entering the mail screening area and then removed in the exit chamber before leaving the area.
  • • All personal protective equipment should be disposed of daily in sealed bags after it is determined that there is no biologically hazardous material present in the facility.
  • • All mail centers should have air sampling systems with an automatic alert if sensors detect chemicals, radiological material, and/or explosive material.
  • • All mail centers should be under negative pressure in the event of the presence of biologically hazardous materials.
  • • All mail and packages should be screened by an x-ray scanner and suspicious items segregated until security personnel can arrive and make appropriate decisions on disposal of the items.
  • • Personnel who process, sort, and deliver mail should view the CDC video entitled “Protecting Your Health” and be given short-term continuing education courses on a regular basis in order that they might understand the potential hazards involved and know what best to do in the event of an emergency.
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