Suspicious mail and bomb threats

Suspicious mail

People handling mail should be aware of the procedures to follow if they receive or notice a suspicious piece of mail.

This is particularly important for staff in mail rooms or other areas where bulk incoming mail is handled, but anyone may be exposed to a suspicious piece of mail at work or at home.

The mail bomb recognition checklist [PDF, 58KB] helps you identify whether a letter or package should be treated as suspicious.


Factors that will help identify suspicious letters or packages:

  • Excessive postage
  • Incorrect titles
  • Title but no name
  • Misspelling of common words
  • Handwritten or poorly typed addresses
  • Oily stains, discolourations or odour
  • No return address
  • Excessive weight
  • Lopsided or uneven envelope
  • Protruding wires or aluminum foil
  • Excessive security material such as masking tape, string, etc
  • Visual distractions
  • Ticking sound
  • Marked with restrictive endorsements, such as 'Personal' or 'Confidential'
  • Shows a city, state or province in the postmark that does not match the return address.

How to decide if an unopened letter or package is suspicious

  1. If there is a ticking sound or protruding wires or aluminum foil, then it should automatically be regarded as suspicious.
  2. The addressee should be contacted to see if the letter or package is expected.
  3. A letter or package can be regarded as suspicious when it is obviously not promotional/marketing mail, the addressee has examined it and at least three suspicious features (see above) have been identified.

How to deal with a suspicious unopened letter or package

  1. Do not shake or empty contents of envelope or package
  2. Place the envelope or package into a plastic bag
  3. If you have been wearing protective gloves, then place them into the same bag
  4. If hands or any part of the body may have come into contact with the envelope or package, wash with soap and water
  5. Call 111 and ask for the Police.

How to deal with a suspicious opened letter or package

Use the same procedures for unopened letters and packages (above), and:

  1. Put on gloves
  2. Place opened letter/package in a plastic bag
  3. If contents are spilled:  
  4. Don't clean up or wipe spilt contents
  5. Clear the area of people
  6. Isolate the area
  7. Switch off air conditioning
  8. Wash hands with soap and hot water.

If contents are spilt on clothing:

  • Select a room for changing
  • Remove clothing and place in plastic bag
  • Shower with soap and hot water
  • Change into other clothes

Then call your local police station.

Dealing with bomb threats

It can be helpful to have a checklist for recording information if a bomb threat is received. If a bomb threat is received, it is the responsibility of employers to decide whether a search or evacuation will be conducted.

The bomb threat checklist [PDF, 76KB] offers general advice on bomb safety issues; print it out and keep it by your phone.