How Do You Handle Suspicious Packages?

Handling Suspicious Packages

Receiving a suspicious package is a scary and daunting event. It can cause mass panic especially in large organisations even if it is just a hoax. It has the potential, if a parcel isn’t handled properly, to cause serious injury and even fatalities. Despite health and safety legislation, not all employees will know how to deal with a suspect item being sent to their workplace.

Despite the rarity of the problem, organisations must ensure that all staff members, especially those who handle mail on a daily basis, are appropriately trained and ready for an event like this. Organisations can run health and safety training sessions or online courses for employees to promote awareness and increase preparedness. All company health & safety legislation should be openly available for all employees to view and keep in mind.

Organisations may wish to carry out a risk assessment to ensure they are aware of potential risks and how to combat them. Planning is essential, and even if a bomb threat is a hoax and a package doesn’t contain any explosives, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

How to Handle a Suspicious Package

The first thing to do when handling a package is to try and avoid holding or physically handling it at all costs. If you pick up a suspicious parcel with an explosive device inside, bumping, shaking or moving it around in any way may cause it to detonate. You may also spread any toxic or explosive substances inside the item if you move it around too much.

Under no circumstance should you handle any packages that have metal protrusions such as wires, are a strange shape, have bulges or seem to be emitting noise. Neither should you handle items with misspelled words, missing addresses or strange return addresses.

If you do handle a potentially dangerous package, you should set it down on the nearest flat surface as soon and as calmly as possible. The item should not be opened under any circumstances, as it is possible that it contains a toxic substance like a powder. However, if you have begun to open it and notice something suspicious inside, stop opening it and put it on the flat surface. If you are in a building, turn fans or any air circulating device off to prevent any toxic chemicals from being spread around the room., According to Police Scotland[1] if the item was noticed in the open air, employees should move away from it uphill or upwind, in addition to removing outer layers of clothing to ensure there are no toxic or explosive substances on them.

After setting it down, you should alert people in the near vicinity to evacuate to a safer location inside or outside the building, taking belongings with them if that is possible. You should also clearly separate the potentially dangerous item from anything else on the surface it is on, to ensure police services can clearly identify and deal with it.

Once everyone is evacuated and their health and safety has been secured, a 999 call should be made to inform the police, and they will send officers to safely remove or detonate the item as quickly as possible. Only after the police or the building’s security officers have declared it safe to go back in the building or area, can you do so.

Businesses seeking advice on how to combat the threat and preventative measures may want to consult a counter-terrorism security adviser (CTSA) for the best provisions.

You can view our Suspicious Packages online training course here.


[1] https://www.scotland.police.uk/assets/pdf/keep_safe/234532/police-scotland-mail-handling-advice