By Karen E. Sims
USAG Antiterrorism Officer
Last month several suspicious packages were received by separate Maryland State Office building mailrooms which contained explosive/flammable materials. Suspicious packages are defined as any items capable of concealing or containing harmful substances that has been left unattended and/or visibly shows indicators of posing a potential threat.
Be wary of suspicious packages. They can contain explosives, chemical or biological agents. Some suspicious characteristics include the following: excessive postage; handwritten or poorly typed addresses; misspellings of common words; strange return address or no return address; incorrect titles or title without a name; not addressed to a specific person; marked with restrictions, such as "Personal," "Confidential," or "Do not x-ray"; marked with any threatening language; postmarked from a city or state that does not match the return address.
Also look for appearance indicators such as: oily stains, discolorations, or odor; excessive packaging material, excessive weight, ticking sound and/or protruding wires or aluminum foil.
Additionally items such as a briefcase, gym bag, suitcase, etc. may be deemed suspicious solely because it is discovered unattended in a public place or near a sensitive facility.
What to do with a suspicious package, letter or container. Do not panic. It is important for all over your actions to be careful and deliberate. Do not move or disturb the item. Isolate the area and evacuate all personnel from the immediate area.
Contact Law Enforcement and your supervisor as soon as possible.
Do not use radios or cell phones!
Protect yourself and others from an exposure to an unknown material. Do not touch, move or attempt to clean up the unknown material. Isolate the area immediately.
All personnel who may have had contact with the unknown material should wash their hands with soap and warm water and shower with soap and warm water as soon as possible.
Do not use bleach or other disinfectants. Make a list of names and contact information for all personnel who have come into contact with the unknown material. Provide this information to law enforcement and health officials.
Carefully follow the instructions provided by law enforcement and health officials.
· Stay calm; do not run around in panic.
· Evacuate calmly and quickly as for a normal fire evacuation (at least 500 meters away from affected area).
· Bring along your personal belongings when evacuating.
· Listen to announcements for instructions.
· Closely follow the instructions and directions given by law enforcement and emergency responders.
· Do not use elevators as you could get trapped in them.
· Do not prop open any fire doors.
· Do not use portable radios or cell phones.
· Do not operate any electrical equipment.
· Do not spread rumors.