What Makes a Package Look Suspicious?

What Makes a Package Look Suspicious?

Suspicious packages being sent to businesses are thankfully not a very common event, but it is important to know what constitutes one in order to minimise their effects and properly dispose of them. If they are not properly handled, bomb threats can result and may result in serious consequences like multiple casualties and injuries. Although considerably harder to completely conceal, threatening instruments can be hidden even in the smallest of packages or letters, meaning spotting physical bulges or sharp objects can be tricky. This is why it is important for employees to be prepared and participate in Health and Safety training.

It doesn’t happen very frequently, but it is still an important problem for organisations and governments to tackle. Organisations clearly can’t control if and when it occurs, but they can control how ready staff are to respond to an incident.

Therefore, all businesses should plan for such eventualities using health and safety legislation as a guide, and by carrying out a risk assessment. Organisations should establish clear procedures in the event that a package has been received, to ensure the preparedness and health and safety of all employees. This can be done through suspicious packaging training, so all staff members know what to do in the event of a threat. Even if it turns out a suspect package doesn’t contain any explosives or harmful instruments, it is much better to be safe than sorry in these types of situation.

The causes and intentions of sending such a dangerous parcel, according to University of California MERCED[1], are to seek revenge, spark terror, act as a reaction to a business argument or protest against a particular action or choice that an organisation has made.

How to Spot a Suspicious Package

The appearance of suspicious packages varies massively, as they are down to the creativity of the individual sender in concealing threatening objects. However, they may have a few physical traits you can spot to prevent an incident and potential casualties or fatalities.

Parcels or letters that have strange physical appearances including an object sticking out should be treated with caution, especially if it looks like it has been poorly wrapped with too much tape and packaging. Wires or other metallic protrusions may stick out, but If there aren’t any, bulges or soft spots are another sign that the parcel should be treated with doubt. Dubious looking parcels may also appear lop-sided, take the form of peculiar shapes and emit strange odours and/or sounds.

This is usually coupled with ‘fragile: handle with care’ or ‘urgent’ packaging labels in an attempt to get a recipient to open it as soon as possible, which have been applied unprofessionally often with missing sections or tears. Threatening writing found on the parcel’s exterior is an immediate sign that you should treat it carefully.

In terms of the written information, addresses, names and labels may be misspelt, nonsensical or completely missing. Return addresses may also be absent or found to lead to a foreign country. If an item is addressed as private and the recipient doesn’t send personal mail to their employer’s organisation, this may be another reason to suspect that the parcel is dodgy.

You may also be sent a suspect letter, which is smaller and harder to conceal items in. However, they can still be classes as dubious parcels as they may contain something you did not order and cannot identified, or a threatening note inside.

If any of the above apply to a received parcel, then it should not be handled or bumped into any surface. It should be set down on the closest completely flat surface and the police should be called, who will send someone right away to properly dispose of the item and secure the health and safety of all inside the building.

You can view our Suspicious Packages online training course here.


[1] https://emergency.ucmerced.edu/plan-procedures/suspicious-packages