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Postal threat

Postal threats

Your security risk assessment and the resulting measures put in place will cover how your organisation handles post, including parcels. This will include the physical location and security for delivery, equipment to consider and processes and procedures for staff to follow, taking into account the size and nature of your business.

Advice is available at the CPNI website:

In collaboration with the British Standards Institution (BSI) they have produced guidance on mail screening and security: PAS 972015 Mail Screening and security.

Below are nine key areas to consider for effective security in post and parcel delivery:

1 Establish a delivery policy for post and packages

For example, some organisations do not allow personal deliveries for staff. In multi-occupancy buildings, tenants may be required to use the same suppliers for some items to reduce the number of deliveries made. You may decide to pre-screen all deliveries off-site before delivering them to their destination.

2 Consider the location of your delivery room

If possible, locate the loading bay / delivery room in an area away from any business-critical parts of the building such as: server rooms, gas utility inlets, air conditioning outlets / inlets with its own or no air conditioning. An assessment should be made to see what is around the immediate vicinity of the delivery areas and actions taken to minimise any potential blast or spread of lethal powders. However, it may not be possible to locate the delivery room this way: in older buildings limited options only are available. British standard PAS 97 discusses this further.

3 Put security in place for the loading bay / post room

The loading bay / post room should have an access control system that only allows authorised personnel to enter, where possible, backed up with CCTV to give a full audit trail of who goes where and when.

4 Have a single point of entry for all deliveries

Deliveries in most buildings are carried out through the loading bay, however in a lot of cases the delivery of smaller items are accepted at the reception area thus circumnavigating any security checks in the loading bay area.

5 Train all staff dealing with post and parcels in suspect package recognition

All staff who deal with post and packages should attend a recognised accredited course for the recognition of suspect packages. This training should be carried out regularly so that the staff are kept up to date with the latest devices and methodologies.

6 Consider implementing a hand sort – identifying the tell-tale signs that could make a package suspicious

Where possible, mail and parcels can initially be sorted by hand in able to identify any of the key signs for identifying a suspicious package. Whether you implement this for all deliveries will depend on a number of factors including your risk assessment and how much mail you get: there needs to be a balance between security and business needs.

The hand sort should check for one or more of these signs:

  • Shape of package : IEDs or incendiary devices can contain irregular shapes such as power supplies, detonators and trigger switches which would give the package an unbalanced look, feel and weight. If you are suspicious of a package, then handle carefully.
  • Post mark and stamps: Be suspicious of excessive use of stamps in comparison to the weight of the package. Also, be vigilant as to where the package has originated from (it may be from a high-risk country).
  • Smell: Certain explosives have a distinctive aroma like almonds that can be sweet and pleasing to the nose, this smell can also be masked by perfumes / aftershaves, coffee etc. Any strong smell should be viewed suspiciously.
  • Oily marks: Explosives can sweat with temperature differences thus leaving greasy or oily marks on the envelopes / packages. Be suspicious of any such like marks.
  • Seal: Powdered envelopes such as anthrax, Ricin and caustic soda are generally heavily sealed with tape to prevent the escape of powder during the postal process. Also be suspicious of postal tubes that are heavily taped up just at one end, as human nature would tell you to open it at the end that isn’t heavily taped up which could be the trigger for an IED.

Always check with the person it is addressed to see if they are expecting anything that matches the postmark and size of package you are holding.

7 Consider the use of an effective x-ray machine for the scanning of parcels and letters

    The nature and size of your business may justify the use of an x-ray machine to check all incoming deliveries to assess whether each parcel / letter is safe or suspect. Of course, not every location or company can warrant the initial cost or maintenance, staffing costs involved with an x-ray machine or indeed have a place to put a machine. It should be noted that older x-ray machines can degrade over a period of time so a regular assessment on the effectiveness of your x-ray machine should be carried out.

X-ray machines have a number of enhancement tools designed to give the user more detail when interrogating an image. Unfortunately, the training on the use of the x-ray machines is normally carried out by a senior person and as a result gets watered down as time goes on. Official user and refresher training by the service provider should be carried out every 12 months to avoid this happening.

8 Establish an action plan for dealing with a suspect package

A full written action plan should be known by all staff for the discovery of explosives and powders. These procedures should be practiced at all levels.

9 Review

All equipment and procedures around the way parcels / letters enter the building and the action on discovery plans need to be reviewed on an annual basis.

This list is not exhaustive. The processes, procedures and equipment you put in place will depend on your business operation and your risk assessment. But a comprehensive approach to post and parcel delivery is a crucial part of the security of your organisation.

For further information please visit the CPNI website.