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Protocol for Identifying and Handling a Suspicious Package and What to Do in the Event of a Hazardous Discharge

To the Penn Community: We are all aware of recent occurrences of bioterrorism in the United States. At this point, neither Philadelphia nor any university has had any incidents of bioterrorism, and we have no reason to believe that will change. However, while the risk of contracting any disease from the mail is extremely low, it is important that we remain vigilant in taking precautions against this potential threat.

Be aware that suspicious packages often have certain distinctive characteristics, including:

  • Handwritten or poorly typed address.
    Excessive postage.
  • Misspellings of common words.
  • Restrictive markings such as Personal or Confidential.
  • Stains, discoloration, or odors.
  • No return address or one that cannot be verified as legitimate.
  • Excessive securing material, such as masking tape, or string.
  • Lopsided or uneven envelope.
  • Powdery substance on the outside.
If you encounter a suspicious letter or package:
  • Do not open it.
  • Set it aside. Leave the room. Close the door.
  • Wash hands with soap and warm water for one minute.

Contact Penn Police (511 on campus, 215-573-3333 off campus).

If upon opening a letter or package you come in contact with a suspicious substance:

  • Do not try to clean it up.
  • Leave the room and close the door.
  • Wash hands with soap and warm water for one minute.
  • Do not brush substance from clothing.
  • If possible, remove clothing containing substance and isolate for further evaluation.
  • If possible, isolate area immediately surrounding the substance.
  • Contact Penn Police.

If you suspect that the substance has become airborne:

  • Turn off fans or ventilation units in the area.
  • Leave area immediately.
  • Close the door or section off area to keep others away.
  • Call Penn Police.
  • Shut down air handling system in the building, if possible.

In order to keep the Penn community fully informed, the Office of Public Safety will conduct information sessions Thursday and Friday on these and other related topics. Your safety remains our top priority and we will continue to provide information when and as necessary. Be sure to regularly check the University's emergency information site ( for additional information.

--Judith Rodin, Robert Barchi and John Fry


The US Post Office web site offers tips at

Almanac, Vol. 48, No. 9, October 23, 2001


October 23, 2001
Volume 48 Number 9

To memorialize those who were victims of the September 11 attacks, Penn has created the Memorial Scholarship Fund.
A $7 million grant to launch the Center of Excellence for Patient Safety Research and Practice.
The Law School has named Edward Rock the inaugural Saul A. Fox Distinguished Professor of Business Law. Dr. Jason Scott Johnston has been named the Robert G. Fuller, Jr. Professor of Law.
The list of Penn alumni who died in the World Trade Center and the Pentagon is released.
View protocol for identifying and handling suspicious packages and what to do in case of a hazardous discharge. Public Safety will hold training sessions on bomb threats and suspicious packages.
The Policy on Electronic Privacy, which was implemented last fall, is now due for its mandated one-year review; comments are invited by November 16.
Speaking Out: another perspective on the possible six-month moratorium on the issuance of foreign student visas.
Presented at Council -- Safety and security update: from accreditation and arrest protocol to homeland security issues. An update on recommendations concerning services to students with disabilities.
As daylight savings time comes to an end next weekend, Public Safety offers tips for using public transportation safely after dark

For those who want to get away--international travel advisories; fellowships for research abroad and accommodations in London.