Campus issues safety tips for handling mail

By D. Lyn Hunter, Public Affairs

24 October 2001 | In response to recent incidents involving anthrax contamination in the mail, campus officials have developed a set of safety guidelines for faculty, staff and students.

“While it is very unlikely that anyone on campus would be affected by this, we are not immune from such an attack,” said UC Police Captain Bill Cooper. “We want to create an awareness and provide information for employees and students who might find themselves in this situation.”

The guidelines, found online at, were distributed to campus last week.

According to the guidelines, anyone receiving a letter that contains powder or a written threat should follow these steps:

• Do not shake or empty the envelope.
• Isolate the area so that no one disturbs the item in question.
• Have someone call 911 to explain what was received and what was done with it. Indicate whether the envelope contains any visible signs of powder.
• Wash hands with warm water and soap for one minute.
• Detain anyone who might have come in contact with the envelope.
• Wait for further instructions from emergency workers.

Those who work with large volumes of mail should wash their hands with warm soap and water before and after handling mail; refrain from eating, drinking or smoking around the mail; and wear latex gloves if they have open cuts or skin lesions on their hands.

Anyone who comes in contact with suspicious looking mail — such as a letter with no return address, excessive postage, misspelled words or a strange odor or discoloration — should contact the UC Police Department immediately, said Cooper.

If such an item is received, campus officers will come to the site and assess the potential danger, he said. If a letter or parcel has been opened and white powder is present, police will immediately call the Berkeley Fire Department, which will dispatch a hazardous materials team.

The campus’s Mail Services unit is also taking additional precautions when processing nearly 30,000 pieces of incoming mail each day, said operations manager Kay Ingle. Gloves have been made available to all Mail Services employees, and the unit is looking more carefully at what comes in through the mail, Ingle said.

Environmental Health and Safety and UCPD have briefed Mail Services staff on how to identify suspicious mail and what steps to take if a questionable letter is received.

Mail Services is also holding frequent meetings to update staff on developments and address any concerns.

Several other measures have been taken to increase safety and raise awareness on campus, said Cooper.

Building coordinators have been asked to clear hallways and common areas of materials and equipment, to make it easier to identify suspicious objects.

Brown-bag information sessions on mail handling were offered this week, and additional sessions are scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 31, from 10:30 a.m. to noon and Wednesday, Nov. 7, from 1:30 to 3 p.m. To enroll and receive details, visit

Police officers are attending seminars and workshops around the state to receive additional training on mail-handling protocols, Cooper said. “We’re trying to stay on top of the current thinking on these kinds of issues.”

Cooper recommends that the campus community check the UCPD Web site frequently for safety updates.


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