Over the last couple of decades, challenging economic conditions, changes in consumer habits, and rising rents have taken their toll on many of the traditional indoor shopping malls Americans used to flock to for their shopping needs. As brick-and-mortar stores slowly left some malls, causing them to close, online shopping picked up momentum, proving to be more competitive and convenient.
In an ironic twist, Newsweek reported that some of these abandoned shopping malls have become or will become Amazon fulfillment centers. As a result, the need for mail security increases, with even more packages coming through the mail and various delivery services.
Whom Is It For?
Mail security is important not just for security professionals but also for those they protect, including employees in corporate environments, as well as government employees, law enforcement personnel, courthouse personnel, and correctional facility employees. Even small businesses should keep mail security top of mind.
Also, make sure security extends to those who normally have executive protection, such as CEOs, directors, and board members, as they may be considered high-profile targets.
Why Is It Important?
Few people would disagree that the country has become increasingly divisive and violent. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Interagency Security Committee (ISC) believe large organizations and companies that have taken sides on controversial and political issues face a riskier environment when it comes to mail security issues. While each of us has our own opinions about such issues, security professionals need to be on the lookout for those who take it to the extreme.
Other factors that could increase an organization’s risk level for mail security issues include recent layoffs, legal proceedings, and controversial public comments from executives.
Types of Mail Security Threats
Security professionals should be on the lookout for ways people can use the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) or third-party package delivery services like FedEx, the United Parcel Service (UPS), DHL, and Shipt to harm others and/or cause disruptions. Categories of mail threats include the following:
- Hoaxes—These can include written threats, harmless white powder (like baby powder, sugar, and corn starch), or a nonfunctioning device designed to cause alarm but that doesn’t actually harm people. These should be taken seriously, as they can escalate to a real threat.
- Chemical—These types of threats can include nerve agents, blood agents, pulmonary agents, blister agents, industrial chemicals, and irritants. They can be solid, liquid, or gas and difficult to detect, and their impact is almost immediate.
- Biological—These agents can cause anthrax, plague, and smallpox. Some biological agents with incubation periods of days or weeks could mean the victims would not immediately know they were exposed, decreasing their chances of a full recovery.
- Radiological/nuclear—These include a nuclear detonation of some type and can be combined with a conventional explosive to create what is referred to as a “dirty bomb.”
- Explosives—Newer explosives with small components mean they can be more destructive today than in the past and more difficult to detect.
- Dangerous items—Consider items that could cut or shock people when they open them.
- Illegal and contraband items—Items such as drugs, guns, knives, swords, and similar weapons can pose a threat to recipients.
Ways to Neutralize Threats
Security professionals should employ several techniques to reduce the chances of employees’ being victims of mail crime:
- Develop standards and procedures. Determine how best to deal with incoming, interoffice, and outgoing mail. High-risk facilities should follow more stringent standards than low- to medium-risk facilities. To learn more, check out “Best Practices for Safe Mail Handling” from the DHS and the ISC.
- Update equipment. Larger facilities with lots of mail should consider purchasing or updating equipment such as X-ray machines and machines that could detect explosives.
- Train employees. Provide proper training so both new and veteran employees know how to handle suspicious packages. The U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) recommends documenting the item, maintaining a safe distance from it, washing hands with soap and water, alerting others that a suspicious letter or package has been found, and contacting local authorities if medical attention is needed.
- Develop a response plan. There are many factors one can observe when it comes to suspicious packages and letters. The USPIS recommends businesses call 911 if they suspect an explosive, a radiological, a biological, or a chemical threat, and suspicious mail can be reported by calling the USPIS at 1-877-876-2455.
Security professionals can learn more about identifying and responding to security threats in mail centers by visiting the USPS Mail Security Center.