General Services Administration Mail Communications Policy Office Mail Center Security Guide

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Mail Bombs

Motives for mail bombs are often revenge, extortion, terrorism or business disputes. The likelihood of ever receiving a mail bomb in the mail is very remote. However, mail bombs must be taken seriously, as they can kill and seriously injure.

Mail bombs can be enclosed in either a letter or a parcel. Its outward appearance is limited only by the imagination of the sender. Mail bombs may or may not have one or more characteristics as listed in the Suspicious Letters and Packages List. For more information on mail Bombs, check with your local Postal Inspector or visit the USPS web site at:
The critical lesson about mail bombs is that virtually all of them can be detected by skilled x-ray inspection of letters and packages. To ensure that x-ray inspectors are paying close attention, consider using software that randomly inserts an image of a suspicious package among the images of actual letters and packages being scanned.

V. Communications Plan

The mail center should develop a communications plan to be executed when responding to a threat. This plan should cover how to acquire and distribute information. Prepare a list of trusted resources to acquire timely and accurate information (e.g., GSA, USPS, CDC, etc.). Organize protocols for the approval and distribution of information on the status of the mail operation. For more information, also see the section on the Occupant Emergency Plan and GSA’s National Guidelines for Assessing and Managing Biological Threats in Federal Mail Facilities. Good communications are part of any successful mail operation and are critical for security issues. You have at least three audiences: mail center personnel, customers, and management. All these audiences rely on relationships.


Schedule regular meetings with a representative from the senior management of your agency (Executive Secretariat, Administrator, etc.), regional office, or facility. Review the steps you’ve taken to secure the mail, and address any outstanding issues. Begin with more frequent meetings, perhaps monthly. As events dictate, you may be able to change the frequency to quarterly or semi-annually. However, do not let six months pass without a meeting.


The aspects of your security plans that will affect customers directly should be developed with cooperation and assistance from customer representatives. And then, highlights of your plans should be communicated regularly to all customers. These two steps will assure customer cooperation and understanding in the event of an emergency. Consider marketing your plan by annual or semi-annual fairs or expos.

Mail Center Personnel

Mail center personnel should be thoroughly involved in developing and implementing your security plans. Once they have been developed, the most important part of communicating those plans is training, as discussed in Section VI above. We also suggest that you set aside time in every meeting with mail center personnel to discuss security. Enhanced security procedures and vigilance must become a way of life for those involved.

As part of your security procedures, you should establish a call tree for employees and managers. The call tree list should include, as a minimum:

  • Names

  • Addresses

  • Work phone numbers

  • Home phone numbers

  • Beeper numbers

  • Cellular phone numbers

  • Name of person to contact in an emergency

This call tree should be tested and updated regularly.
Communications During an Emergency.
Clear, consistent, and factual communications are critical in any emergency. The anthrax attacks demonstrated once again that the morale and performance of everyone involved in an emergency could be very seriously affected by inconsistent, vague, and opinionated information. Anyone in authority must be very careful to check their facts, to know who the designated official spokesperson is for every aspect of the emergency, and to coordinate any messages thoroughly.
Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards require employers to make health and safety information available to any employee who requests it. All information relevant to apparent and credible biological threats should be provided to employees as quickly as possible, preferably without waiting for a request. Health and Safety Plans, also required by OSHA regulations, must include provisions for sharing health and safety information.
Every federal agency must provide a safe working environment for all employees, including those with special needs. Security procedures should specifically address communications with individuals who may need assistance during an emergency. Care should be taken to be sure all employees are aware of those with special needs. Additional information on emergency preparedness for disabled employees can be found at the National Organization of the Disabled at

Relationships with partner organizations (First Responders, Public Health Authorities, FBI, FPS, Regional USPIS, Fire, Hazmat and Law Enforcement Officials)

Many other aspects of security also require that you develop and maintain relationships with key partners. Your first task in this regard is to establish and maintain relationships with:

  • Local first responders to federal mail centers (fire, hazmat, and law enforcement);

  • Local public health authorities (disease control and laboratory).

  • Regional Federal Bureau of Investigation Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) coordinators; and

  • Regional US Postal Inspection Service inspectors.

A “first responder” is an emergency worker who responds to an incident within a set amount of time. They also provide trained people to respond to emergency situations. Usually this first responder label is specific to Fire, Law Enforcement and Emergency Medical Service (EMS) immediately arriving assets. You may need to establish relationships with several different first responder organizations, depending on the personnel and capabilities that they can provide. First responders to federal mail facilities may be federal, state, and/or local organizations, depending on your specific circumstances.

Once you have identified your first responder(s), then

  1. Determine who will be responsible for opening unopened suspicious letters and packages, and establish a relationship with them (this may be a specially trained federal personnel or other first responders).

  2. Establish relationships and protocols with the local Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) WMD Coordinator concerning suspicious powders and liquids, or make sure that your first responders have done so.

  3. Ensure that the first responder organization(s) are ready, willing, and able to follow the established protocols, including GSA’s National Guidelines for Assessing and Managing Biological Threats in Federal Mail Facilities, and that they have relationships with the other key partners.

Many of the above preparedness activities and local government contacts can be initiated through and coordinated with the Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC) responsible for the mail center’s geographic location. LEPC contact information can be found at

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