Missouri State University

Handling Mail Safely

In light of recent events and reports of packages received with mysterious powders in or on them, many have asked when and whether they should be concerned about being exposed to anthrax through their mail. 

Safety Guidelines

You can keep safe by following these common sense guidelines regarding mail handling:

  • Do not tear envelopes or use openers with great force
  • When removing contents, do so without fanning the contents in the air
  • Do not eat, drink or smoke around mail
  • Do not open, smell or taste any powder
  • Wash your hands with warm soap and water before and after handling mail
  • If you have open cuts or lesions on your hands, wear protective gloves---contact Taylor Health and Wellness Center to obtain gloves 

Characteristics of Suspicious Mail

When handling mail, be on the lookout for these characteristics:

  • Unexpected or is from an unfamiliar source
  • Addressed to someone no longer with your organization or is outdated in any way
  • Has no return address, an address that cannot be verified, or a city or state in the postmark that doesn't match the return address
  • Lopsided, oddly shaped, or has an unusual weight, given its size
  • Marked with restrictive endorsements, such as "Personal" or "Confidential"
  • Has protruding wires, strange odors, powders or stains--please remember it's normal for routinely received glossy mail to include a fine powder
  • Has excessive postage or excessive tape or string
  • Shows misspelled words 

What to do if You Find Something Suspicious

If you find a suspicious article of mail, follow these steps:

  1. Do not panic. Do not open or discard the suspicious package or envelope.
  2. If a powder-like substance is noted, put down the article you are handling immediately, instruct others in the room not to touch the article, and advise them to leave that room.
  3. Request someone in that room call Safety and Transportation at 417-836-5509. If you're on the Mountain Grove or West Plains campus and the situation is an emergency, request someone call 911 to reach the local police.
  4. Wash your hands and arms thoroughly with warm water and soap for 30 seconds. Rinse off the soap and repeat the procedure a second time.
  5. Ensure that Safety and Transportation has been contacted and notify your supervisor.
  6. Have all people that have come in contact with article remain in the area until receiving further instructions