An envelope containing white powder and marked with “anthrax” and “Al Qaeda” arrives in your school’s main office mail. Would your office staff know what to do?
The recent cargo planes with bombs mailed by terrorists, as a part of an international terror plot, quickly brought school mailing handling procedures to mind. Add to that the anthrax scares experienced in schools all the way back to the post-9/11 era, and it is a good time for schools to review mail handling security procedures with staff.
A few considerations I suggest schools discuss in their crisis teams include:
- Do not allow students to open mail;
- Limit mail opening to one designated staff member;
- Open mail in room separate from open, main office areas;
- Limit student access to teachers’ mailboxes;
- Educate staff regarding suspicious packages;
- Anticipate hoax incidents and treat seriously; and
- Work with custodial and maintenance staff to create procedures for quickly shutting down HVAC, if necessary.
Schools should also work with their public health agencies as part of their emergency planning. Surges in student illnesses and absences may be one of the first indicators of a broader community-wide contamination.
School and safety officials should train office support staff and others who may come into contact with mail and packages. The U.S. Postal Service has a guide to suspicious letters and parcels with a downloaded poster which can be used to heighten awareness.
Have office support staff and others been trained on mail handling security best practices at your school?
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