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Posted at 11:50 AM ET, 01/ 8/2011

Suspicious packages revive postal worker fears

By Ed O'Keefe

An instructional poster reminds postal workers how to track for suspicious mail. (Image courtesy of USPS)

The U.S. Postal Service is reminding workers how to track for suspicious packages after the discovery of three parcels containing low-grade incendiary devices in Washington, D.C. and Maryland -- incidents that have reminded some of the anthrax mail scare almost a decade ago.

Postal employees should pay special attention the shape, look, address and packaging of potentially dangerous parcels, according to a memo sent Friday to workers across the Washington region:

Shape: Is it lopsided or uneven? Is it rigid or bulky?
Look: Are there oily stains, discolorations, or crystals on the wrapper? Does it have a strange odor?
Address: Is there a return address? Are there restrictive markings? Are there misspelled words? Is it addressed to a title rather than to an individual? Is it an incorrect title? Is it poorly typed or written?
Packaging: Is it sealed with tape? Is there excessive tape? Is there excessive postage?

Workers are reminded to follow the Postal Service's three-step action plan -- Package, People, Plan -- if a suspicious package is found:

Package: DO NOT handle the package or letter. Leave it where it is! Isolate the area. Do not try to clean it up, move it, or place it in a plastic bag. Make a mental note of any information that might be useful (size, shape, look, address).
People: Clear the area. Inform employees in the immediate area so they won't disturb the suspicious package, letter, or substance. Notify a supervisor immediately. All employees in the area near the package should wash their hands and any other exposed skin with soap and water immediately, even if they didn't touch the package or letter. The area should be cordoned off. Air conditioner, fans and equipment should be turned off.
Plan: Contact your supervisor, who will contact the Inspection Service. Follow your emergency plan. Know who to contact if your supervisor isn't available. In an emergency - such as smoke, fumes, vapors, or employees exhibiting medical symptoms - evacuate the area and call local emergency responders.

"With something like this, it does make you think about what happened, especially if you worked in Brentwood," said Ray Robinson, executive vice president of American Postal Workers Union Local 140, which represents thousands of postal workers across the region.

"Brentwood" refers to the massive Northeast Washington mail processing facility where postal workers first found anthrax spores in the weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Two employees, Thomas L. Morris Jr. and Joseph P. Curseen, died from the exposure; the building was renamed in their honor. Their deaths sparked years of mistrust still simmering today between management and a rank and file concerned that they're too often kept out of the loop.

Ten years later, management is responding faster when incidents occur, Robinson said Saturday. "If anything happens anywhere, they at least call in employees and talk to them and tell them what's happening."

Looking for suspicious mail and packages "is part of every employee's training and its re-enforced on a regular basis -- this was the case even before Anthrax," USPS spokeswoman Sue Brennan said late Friday in an e-mail. "I remember getting this information when I was a craft employee -- its part of the job. The goal has always been to keep employees safe - to keep customers safe and to keep the U.S. Mail safe."

Before e-mail, postal officials blasted similar messages to the rank and file by fax and by using an internal postal television network, Brennan said.

The reminders are helpful, but some workers still worry they won't learn the whole story.

"There's always fear that people may not be telling us everything," Robinson said. "We're the people working in the buildings, and so we should know whatever is going on."

Leave your thoughts in the comments section below

By Ed O'Keefe  | January 8, 2011; 11:50 AM ET
Categories:  Postal Service  
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Worst fears is right.. that there are some that are willing to stage things that are lethal to other countrymen to evoke certain kinds of responses they favor... because they are more important than the average persons and have grand plans for the future

Posted by: Wildthing1 | January 8, 2011 2:44 PM | Report abuse

And don't you eat that yellow snow!

Posted by: Bob-S | January 8, 2011 4:38 PM | Report abuse

Looks like the "tea partiers" are on a rampage. They hate Napolitano with a passion.

Posted by: B2O2 | January 8, 2011 4:56 PM | Report abuse

The Tea Party has been threatening to commit terrorist acts for a long time. Looks like our 2nd Civil War has begun.

Posted by: jjedif | January 8, 2011 6:01 PM | Report abuse

thats why I always mail the white house in suspicious least then someone will read it. most everything we get from the mail and media is either junk or poisoned by lacing it with lies. at least I send everything with pure thoughtful ideas. unaltered by political interference. I never got anywhere with my lawyers perfect postage and beautiful penmanship, or his excellent words are better defined than the whole white house, my morals are better than the post office. my grammar is better than most Americans. but my confidence is worse than all the world governments. it strikes me as funny the idea of professional employees handling all letters from low class Americans with bomb suits, when after all the terrorists read the news they will send all their bombs in tide samples since everyone knows that text was a hoax. attackers plan ahead.. any person can be suspicious.. any mail can have poison..their is no category.

Posted by: Liberty14 | January 8, 2011 7:34 PM | Report abuse

As long as the power-damaged minds of government continue centralizing more power, by design of power in the human mind, which creates more enemies, the government system will continue attacking itself until 100 percent of its effort is to protect itself from the people, therein offering the people nothing for their taxes, and collapse, much to the amusement of the observers.

There is a solution, but power-damaged minds cannot understand the above explained problem. Enjoy the show.


Posted by: DougBuchananDotCom | January 9, 2011 1:39 PM | Report abuse

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