[What follows is a communication to the University of Vermont community
from the Departments of Police Services, Risk Management and the Print &
Mail Center. It is being distributed via a listserv used for emergency and
top-priority communications. You cannot unsubscribe from this list.]
Responding to Suspicious Mail
Since the events of September 11th there have been reports (from Florida,
Washington and New York City) that several persons have been infected with
Inhalation and Subcutaneous Anthrax. It appears from news reports at this
time that at least two of the persons, associated with high profile
organizations, were likely infected after handling suspicious envelopes
sent through the mail. The University of Vermont HAS NOT received any
terrorist threats. The university has a well-developed emergency response
and recovery plan capable of handling a wide array of issues. This email is
meant to share information with our community in an attempt to heighten
awareness of any suspicious letters or packages and reduce anxiety caused
by recent isolated incidents.
Nationwide and statewide, instances are being reported of powders being
sent in envelopes through the mail. In the majority of cases, after
testing, the powders have been found not to contain anthrax. These hoaxes
cause a great deal of anxiety.
We urge all members of the University of Vermont community to be vigilant
and careful in handling mail both on campus and in your homes. We are
paying very close attention to national reports, and are taking this issue
very seriously. We will investigate any suspicious envelopes and packages
immediately after they are reported to Police Services. An appropriate
determination and disposition will be made after consulting with all or
some of the following organizations: Vermont Emergency Management, Vermont
Department of Health, and/or the United States Postal Inspectors.
Please familiarize yourself with the procedural information that follows.
How to Respond to Suspicious Mail and Threat Letters or Packages
Potentially Contaminated with Anthrax or Other Biological Materials
Various office locations around the country have, and continue to receive
threat letters through the mail. These letters may state that you have
been exposed to anthrax or other biological materials. Additionally, these
envelopes or packages may contain some type of powder or granules. The
following information and recommendations (collected from various sources)
are being provided to help you safely and effectively handle these types of
1. Firstly, all campus personnel should maintain an enhanced awareness
of receipt of suspicious letters or packages. Some common things to look
· No Return Address
· Restrictive Marking such as "Personal" or "Special Delivery"
· Possibly Mailed from a Foreign County
· Excessive Postage
· Misspelled Words
· Addressed to Title Only or Incorrect Title
· Badly Typed or Written
· Package or Letter is Lopsided or Uneven
· Wire Protrude from Package or Letter
· Letter is Rigid or Bulky
· Wrong Title with Name
· Oily Stains, wet areas, openings, strange odors, discolorations, or
crystallization on wrapper
· Excessive Tape or String
· Unusually heavy envelope and/or the presence of small bulges of
powder or granules.
If you receive unexpected letters or packages with several of the above
listed indicators, you should do the following:
a. Handle with care. Don't shake or bump.
b. Isolate the package or letter.
c. Don't Open, Smell, or Taste.
d. Treat it as Suspect and call 911.
If you are concerned about a particular envelope or package, DO NOT OPEN
IT. There is no risk of a release of materials or risk of exposure to you
if the envelope or package remains intact. Call 911 and inform the police
dispatcher that you have a suspicious envelope or package.
2. If you open an envelope or package and you find a letter that
contains a threatening message or states that you have been contaminated
with anthrax or some other biological substance, and no substance is found:
· Replace the letter in the envelope and place the envelope in a
· Wash your hands with soap and water.
· Call 911 or 6-3473, remain at your work location, and wait for
emergency responders to arrive.
3. If you open an envelope or package and you observe some type of
powder, REMAIN CALM:
· Slowly and carefully place the letter back in the envelope and put
the envelope in a plastic bag if possible and seal it.
· If a plastic bag is unavailable, place the envelope on a counter or
floor and cover the envelope with an empty garbage or recycling container.
· Do not walk around the office to show other people, nor invite
co-workers to come in and take a look.
· Immediately wash your hands with soap and water. Extensive body
decontamination (i.e., removing clothing, showering) is not indicated. Call
911 immediately to report the incident, and remain in place to assist
4. If any powder spills out of the envelope or package:
· Do not clean it up yourself, and prevent others from contacting it.
· Do not brush off your clothes and disperse the powder into the air.
· Wash your hands with soap and water.
· Call 911, inform the emergency dispatcher of the incident, and what
steps you have taken.
· Remain in place and carefully remove your clothing and place them
in a plastic bag.
· If possible, shower with soap and water and put on fresh
clothing. It is not necessary nor is it recommended that you wash with bleach.
5. If there is a small explosion or release of an aerosol spray from a
· Vacate the space immediately and prevent others from entering.
· Call 911 immediately and remain on the premises to provide
information to emergency responders.
· Treat yourself and your clothing as in #4, above.
People who may have been present in the room, but did not directly contact
the letter or substance, are at minimal risk for exposure. Individuals not
in the room at the time when the envelope or package was opened are not at
For biological agents to be effective terrorist agents they must be
aerosolized into an extremely fine mist that can be inhaled. This is a
technically difficult task. Generally, opening mail and handling
biologically contaminated objects (e.g., those containing anthrax) are not
sufficient activities to aerosolize particles. These organisms simply don't
leap into one's body. Therefore, the likelihood of becoming infected
through the inhalation route is extremely small. However, if you handle
contaminated items with sores or cuts on your hands, there is a small
probability that you could develop a cutaneous (skin) infection. In any
scenario, prompt diagnoses and the availability of effective antibiotic
treatments can lead to recovery from a potential infection. Anthrax is not
contagious and cannot be transferred from person to person.
For further information, please contact UVM Police Services at 656-FIRE
(3473) (http://www.uvm.edu/police), Department of Risk Management at