What To Do in an Emergency

Suspicious Letters and Packages

The information and guidance in this segment was obtained from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Department of Homeland Security, and United States Postal Service.

Identifying Suspicious Packages and Letters
Some characteristics of suspicious packages and letters include the following:

  • Excessive postage
  • Handwritten or poorly typed addresses
  • Incorrect titles
  • Title, but no name
  • Misspellings of common words
  • Oily stains, discolorations or odors
  • No return address
  • Excessive weight
  • Lopsided or uneven packaging
  • Protruding wires or aluminum foil
  • Visual distractions
  • Ticking sound
  • Excessive security material such as masking tape, string, etc.
  • Marked with restrictive endorsements, such as “personal” or “confidential”
  • A city or state shown in the postmark that does not match the return address

Once a Package Has Been Identified as Suspicious

  • Stay calm; do not panic.
  • Do not move or handle a suspicious package.
  • Call the Office of Public Safety at 911 from any campus phone or 607-274-3333 from a cell phone.
  • If there is reason to suspect that a package may contain an explosive device based on characteristics described above, do not handle the package. Leave the area and contact the Office of Public Safety.
  • If the suspicious letter or package is marked with a threatening message (such as “anthrax”) or if a suspicious powder or substance spills out of the package or envelope, follow these guidelines to assist the Office of Public Safety:
    • DO NOT CLEAN up a suspicious powder.
    • TURN OFF local fans or ventilation units in the area if you suspect that a device has been activated and the fan/ventilation switches are quickly and easily accessible.
    • SHUT down air handling system in the building, if possible. Call the Office of Facilities at 607-274-3225 for assistance with HVAC and other building issues.
    • LEAVE the area immediately. Close the door or section off the area to prevent others from entering. Call for help and keep others away from the area.
    • WASH your hands with soap and water to prevent spreading any powder to your face.
    • REMOVE contaminated clothing as soon as possible and place in a plastic bag or some other container that can be sealed. Give clothing bag to the emergency responders.
    • SHOWER with soap and water as soon as possible if contaminated. Do not use bleach or other disinfectant on your skin.
    • LIST all people who were in the area when the suspicious package was recognized.
    • PROVIDE this list of people to the Office of Public Safety for follow-up investigations and to obtain advice from local public health authorities and outside law enforcement officials.

Emergency Response
Emergency responders from the Office of Public Safety will assess the situation. If the suspicious letter or package is marked with a threatening message, such as “anthrax,” or if a suspicious powder or substance has spilled, they will follow certain guidelines.