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Cambridge City Council

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Dealing with suspect packages

Potential hazards

  • Incendiary devices.
  • Explosive devices.
  • Chemical or biological contamination.
  • Sharp blades / needles.

Look for the following

  • The postmark, is it foreign?
  • Do you normally get letters or parcels from this country?
  • Is the name and address of the sender missing
  • The writing: is it 'unusual' in style. Do you recognize it?
  • Is there any improper spelling of common names, places or titles.
  • Does it have no postage or non-cancelled postage
  • Is it evenly balanced? If the letter is lopsided, treat it as suspect.
  • If the weight seems to be excessive for the package's size, treat it as suspect.
  • Are there any small holes or pinpoints, which could have been made by wires?
  • Are there any stains or grease marks, which could be caused by sweating explosives?
  • The feel of the package. In the case of letters, it will indicate whether there is only folded paper inside the envelope or if there is stiffening; for example, cardboard, the feel of metal or the feel of a granular substance, in which cases treat it as suspect.
  • Does it smell? Some explosives have an aroma of marzipan or almonds.
  • Can you see if there are any unusual outlines if you hold it up to the light?
  • Is the flap of the envelope stuck down completely? (There is usually a small gap.) If so treat it as suspect.

What to do with a suspect package

  • Do not open it.
  • Do not bend the envelope or package, or place it in water.
  • Do place the package on a flat surface, if possible in a sealable container or plastic bag (if it's been opened leave it).
  • Do shut the windows in the room.
  • Do switch off any extract fans / air conditioning.
  • Do leave the room closing the door.
  • Do not go back into the room.
  • Do evacuate the building / immediate vicinity keeping clear of the suspect package.
  • Do not touch your eyes, nose or other part of your body in case your hands are contaminated.
  • Do wash your hands thoroughly.
  • Do keep all evacuated persons available for questioning by the police, do not allow them to disperse.
  • Do keep all persons who have been near the package together and, as far as possible, isolated from others.
  • If possible, ensure that a list is compiled of each member of staff and all visitors names and location within the building at the time of the event, and contact details.

Emergency Procedures

  • Ensure you have a suspect package / evacuation plan in place (fire evacuation system is generally suitable).
  • Raise the alarm.
  • Go to the assembly point.
  • Contact the emergency services on 999.