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First responders: prepare for white powder incidents

Posted: Oct. 1, 2020

Most suspicious white powders sent through the mail turn out to be harmless, but first responders must be prepared to handle this type of call.

It seems anyone can be a target now for receiving a suspicious package in the mail, making this more of a concern for smaller towns and cities around the country.

The anthrax letters of 2001 are usually the first thing many of us think of, but there are several recent cases involving other deadly substances. Ricin was sent to the White House in 2014 and again in September 2020.

This week the Erie County, New York Board of Education and a Massachusetts hospital received white powder envelopes; both were found to be non-hazardous. However, a Texas sheriff's office received four letters containing ricin from the same sender as the White House incident.

Last month, a Pennsylvania city council president was hospitalized after receiving a letter containing white powder. While lab tests have not been completed, officials believe the envelope contained fentanyl.

Prepare for white powder incidents

  • Review your response plans and procedures for a white powder incident. Make sure they address any type of substance, not only anthrax. Practice the plans and make changes as needed.
  • Consider sending informational materials on handling white powder mail incidents to local government agencies, nonprofit organizations, private sector businesses, or any other entities or individuals that may be targets. This could be most easily done through email or a public service announcement.

For more information

This article is based on content in the
Oct. 1, 2020 InfoGram.

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