Explosive packages cause questions about mail security

After the recent delivery of three dangerous, incendiary packages to Maryland state office buildings and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, security experts have begun to evaluate how the attacks will impact future mail screening procedures.

Security experts like Richard Coakley, the director of mail solutions for Pitney Bowes Management Services, have offered their opinions for methods to improve security practices, according to Security Info Watch.

"First of all, professional training of mail center workers and updating periodically is key," Coakley said, according to Security Info Watch. "Also, these workers need to have the right reminders around them in their work areas to help them stay focused on the task at hand. For example, Pitney Bowes remind its workers to remain vigilant in sorting the mail and the necessary processes to detect suspicious packages, screen them for hazards and how to protect themselves, through wall posters and other visual reminders posted throughout their work stations."

Many packages that are suspicious tend to have telltale warning signs, but Coakley did not believe this was the case in the Maryland attacks.

"As part of our training and security processes, there are usually 12 red flag warnings when inspecting a mail piece or a package, and based on information received from authorities, there were only one or two characteristics to the packages that would have been red-flagged; the use of postage stamps/clusters of stamps and over-paying for postage," Coakley said, Security Info Watch reports. "In this case, it appears that an external visual check did not yield many abnormal warnings."

According to Coakley, some of the things an organization can do to avoid risks is to have the most secure mailroom facility possible. Ideally, Security Info Watch reports, the site should be located offsite from the main office. If that is not possible, it should be on a ground floor with a separate HVAC system from the rest of the building. The organization should also mandate that all packages be sent through the mailroom before being sent to a recipient.

Other precautions may include blow-out walls and X-ray screening technology.

Coakley said this most recent incident will serve as a necessary reminder to the threats governments face, but also that lawmakers should not respond with a large kneejerk reaction.

"These events should serve as constant reminders that companies and government agencies must assess their threat levels and employ the necessary people, processes and technology in conjunction with their level of threat," Coakley said, according to Security Info Watch. "Incidents such as those that occurred in Maryland remind us of the importance of being vigilant in our detection and screening processes, and of employing the right people and technology."