General Services Administration Mail Communications Policy Office Mail Center Security Guide

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Like training, reviews should be continual. You should schedule annual reviews of your security program to be sure that it’s up-to-date and complete.

lthough the mail center operates as the focal point for federal agencies, security policies and procedures for the mail center are often overlooked. Security is critical to mail center operations – large and small. This Mail Center Security Guide was prepared by GSA with a team of experts to help you, as a mail center manager, and your coworkers keep your mail center safe and secure. Prevention is the key for keeping your mail center secure.

Appendix A – Risk Analysis Worksheet

Assets and Missions
















Overall Risk



Postage meters

Fraudulent use


Mail center personnel


Automated postage tracking


Mail center personnel



Workplace injuries


Improved mail center layout


Mail delivery roster





Effective OEP


Agency missions

Temporarily disabled




Plumbing maintenance


Agency executives

Injury or death


Improvised explosive


X-ray inspection of packages


Appendix B – On Line Resources For Keeping Your Mail Center Safe

Excellent resources for additional information include:

U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) –
Workplace Risk Pyramid, OSHA –
Centers for Disease Control (CDC) -
Office of Personnel Management - publishes questions and answers on federal employees personnel issues, etc. -
Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) –
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) –
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) –
DA PAM 25-52, Mail Facility Security and Handling Suspicious Mail
Council on Foreign Relations - Homeland Security Questions and Answers on Biological Attacks -
General Services Administration (GSA) –
GSA Mail Communications Policy Office -
Suspicious Letters and Packages Identifiers - Now part of the National Guidelines on the GSA Mail Policy web site. Choose Mail Center Security and then Choose the National Guidelines. You will find ta printable version under appendix c. http://www.gsa.govmailpolicy
GSA Federal Protective Service - and type in Law Enforcement in the search tool.
Security Assessment – (Note – you will need to obtain a password to use the resources on this site)
US Postal Service (USPS) –
USPS Suspicious Mail Alert Poster (downloadable) -
USPS and FBI Reward Poster -
USPS Postal Inspection Service -
Best Practices for Mail Center Security -
The following publications are available from the US Postal Inspection Service:
Identify Theft Brochure - (Publication 280) -

Misleading Advertisements - Media Guidelines (Publication 257) -

Consumer & Business Guide to Preventing Mail Fraud
Publication 300A -

Bombs by Mail (Notice 71) -

Drugs by Mail (Poster 265) -

Notice of Reward (Poster 296) -

Some Things Were Never Meant to Be Mailed (Poster 76) -

Warning! Reusing Postage (Poster 5) -

Appendix C – Mail Center Security Checklist

This checklist was first developed in 2002 to assist federal agencies develop and determine the requirements for their security plans. Back by popular demand, this tool is provided to assist Mail Center Managers with the preparation of their security plans, and to aid in determining the security requirements for their mail center/facilities.

I. Inbound Mail Procedures

  Written Policies and Procedures are available on how incoming mail is processed.
  All mail is x-rayed before it comes into the mail center.
  Incoming mail is isolated in an area where it can be inspected.
  Delivery personnel have limited access to the mail center and are received at a

Controlled area outside the mail center where possible.

  Letters/packages for senior Agency officials are given extra attention and inspected


  A system is in place for accountable letters and packages (i.e. certified mail, UPS,

FedEx, etc). Delivery is verified and only complete shipments are accepted.

  Accountable mail is signed for (whenever possession changes) and is never left at an

unoccupied desk or mailbox.

  Incoming personal mail is not handled by the mail center (unless the exemption for

your agency applies).

II. Security Training
  Basic security procedures have been developed and training has been provided.
  Employees have been trained on how to recognize and handle suspicious


  Procedures are posted on how to recognize suspicious packages/letters and

staff trained.

  Employees have been trained on the proper use of personal protection equipment,

if it is being used.

  Employees are trained on the Occupant Emergency Plan and are regularly tested.
  Training is regularly provided by the Facility Mail Managers through seminars,

conference calls, and/or web based training.

  Facility Mail Managers are aware of training available through other sources such as

the General Services Administration and the U. S. Postal Service.

  Mail centers rehearse various evacuation plans and/or scenarios.

III. Physical Security
  The mail center is an enclosed room with defined points of entry or a defined

space that is used only for processing mail.

  Access to the mail center is limited to those employees who work in the mail center,

or who have immediate need for access.

  Employees wear photo identification at all times.
  Visitors to the mail center sign a log and are escorted at all times.

The checklist for opening the mail center includes


  A check of all locks/entrances.

  Visitors log.
  Verification of contents of safes/vaults.
  Open meter readings.

The checklist for closing the mail center includes

  Close meter readings.
  Secure meters.
  File the visitors log.
  Secure all mail.
  Log out of all safes/vaults.
  Check all locks/entrances.

  Employee parking is separated from the loading dock area (where possible).
  Contract delivery services are screened and or x-rayed (where possible).
  Unnecessary stops by delivery vehicles are eliminated.
  Procedures are established for handling unexplained packages.
  The Mail Manger keeps in regular contact with the Building Security Committee.

IV. Mail Is Transported In A Safe Manner
  Authorized receptacles for US mail are clearly labeled.
  High value items are secured overnight.
  Labels are securely fastened to mail items.
  Postage meter strips overlap labels.
  Labels and cartons do not identify valuable contents.
  Containers and sacks are used when possible.
  Outgoing mail is sealed shortly after the most valuable item is placed inside.
  Sender or addressee can identify the value of the contents.
  Lost and rifled mail are reported to the postal service.
  Parcels prepared to withstand transit.
  Contract delivery services screened.
  Outgoing mail delivered to postal custody inside the facility.
  Unnecessary stops by delivery vehicles are eliminated.
  X-raying of mail occurs where appropriate.
V. Security Assessment
  Alternatives for processing mail have been identified in the event of a mail center

or building being closed.

  Annual inspections of the mail center are done with building operations and security

personnel focusing on potential vulnerabilities.

  A written contingency plan for continuing mail operations has been developed in

the event that the mail center or building is closed.

  Important mail has been identified and mechanisms established for its delivery in

case of a shutdown.

  Regular safety drills are conducted for mail center staff.
  A written emergency evacuation plan has been developed and employees have

been trained on the applicable protocols.

  Precautions have been taken to ensure the safety and well being of mail center staff.
  Safety/Security training for mail center staff is provided on a regular basis.
  Mail/facility managers participate regularly in building security committees.
  Written procedures are in place to handle suspicious mail.
  Only authorized individuals have access to the mail center.
  Mechanisms are in place to ensure against theft, mis-use or destruction of

equipment within the mail center.

VI. Communication
  The Mail Manager keeps in contact with facility center management

through regularly scheduled meetings.

  Regular meetings are held with appropriate agency personnel concerning mail

safety and all personnel are advised of outcomes/new procedures.

  Mail center management is involved in developing and implementing security plans.
  A call tree has been established and is continually updated for mail center

managers and employees that include: Names, addresses, work phone

numbers, home phone numbers, beeper numbers, and cellular phone numbers.

A communications plan has been developed for use during an emergency

  All available information is communicated in a timely manner.
  Everyone is sending the same message.
  All facts have been confirmed with competent authorities.
  Designated officials also have designated backups.
  Local union officials are involved.
  Messages are crafted so that all personnel can easily understand the information.
  Every effort is made to communicate the existing level of risk, and what actions

are being taken.

VII. Employee Safety

  Personal protection equipment is available for all mail center personnel

and employees who have been trained on the proper use of equipment and

safety gear; a log entry is made when each employee has completed training.
  Signs are posted in the mail center listing whom to call in the event of

emergencies such as fire, theft, suspicious packages, etc.

  Daily procedures have been established for cleaning the area and equipment used

to process inbound mail.

  Staff is instructed to wash hands frequently, especially before eating.
  Employees are instructed to make supervisors aware of unknown persons in the

mail center.

  Evacuation procedures are established and staff routinely trained in the event of

a potential threat. Practice, train and rehearse!

  Provide a separate and secure area for personal items (e.g. coats, and purses).

VII. Loss Prevention and Cost Avoidance
  Have a check and balance system in place to validate procedures for all forms of

postage – meters, stamps and permits.

  Conduct regular checks to ensure employees are not using agency meters for personal

  Have controls in place to ensure proper access and accountability for permit envelopes

And labels.

  Ensure regular inventory counts are logged properly.

  Regular audits should be performed for inventory as well.
  Bills from other carriers (e.g., FedEx, UPS) should be reviewed regularly to guard against

unauthorized use and to ensure that appropriate refunds are collected.

  Personnel should be screened before employment (if appropriate, background checks

could be performed).

  Only authorized employees should be assigned to accept mail.
  Review and ensure that the designed physical layout of your mail center serves

as a tool in helping to prevent loss.

  Call the U.S. Postal Inspection Service to report mail losses. Refer to their web

site for more information

IX. Contractors
Consider addressing the following in the contract; the specifics will depend on the scope of the contract:

  The contractor should provide copies of all written procedures on how mail is handled.
  Develop a performance work statement that defines the Federal Mail Center

requirements in terms of the objective and measurable outputs.

  Identify security steps the contractor will take to provide the best possible security,

including hiring practices and employee screening checks.

  Evaluate what technology the contractor will deploy to process your mail. Request

presentations on electronic manifests for inbound mail, Coding Address Accuracy

System (CASS) certification, etc.
  Conduct on-site audits to ensure that you are being charged correctly and receiving

the appropriate discounts, if you are using a contract service to prepare and presort

your mail.
  Conduct periodic reviews separate from the contract process.
  Do an impromptu tour to see that the procedures are being followed, confirm that

the mail is being processed and that performance standards are being met.

More information on Performance – Based Contracting can be found on the web at and in the search tool type in ARNET.

X. Occupant Emergency Plan (OEP)
  Are procedures established for handling serious illness, injury, or mechanical


  Have all occupants been told how to get first aid/CPR fast?

  Are floor plans and occupant information readily available for use by police, fire,

bomb search squads, and other emergency personnel?

  Do occupants know what to do if an emergency is announced?

  Are evacuation procedures established and are employees familiar with

the procedures?

  Have special procedures been established for evacuation of the handicapped?

  Have drills and training been adequate to ensure a workable emergency plan?

  Are emergency telephone numbers displayed and/or published where they are

readily available?

  Are they reviewed and updated frequently?
  Did an advisory committee of appropriate officials (Building Manager, Federal Protective

Service, Security Force or Security Protection Official, etc) assist in developing the plan

for you mail center?
XI. Continuity of Operations Planning (COOP)

  Has an alternate facility been planned for incoming and/or outgoing mail?

  Are employees aware of a line of succession and delegation of authorities in the

event of an emergency?

  Provide for personnel accountability throughout the duration of the emergency?
  Establish reliable processes and procedures to acquire resources necessary to

continue essential functions and sustain operations for up to 30 days?

  Have documents been identified and prioritized as critical, important or routine?
  Have standards been developed and procedures identified that enable your organization

to process all critical documents during an emergency? (Plan the steps needed to begin processing the documents and mail designated as important, and then those designated as standard).

  Has a plan been developed to work with the USPS and all other carriers as to what

to do with the mail for alternate operations?

  Has your facility created a “fly-away kit” for the center and then designate a key

official and one or more alternates to pick up the kit in an emergency?

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