Mail Handling Information For State Of California Employees

From: Governor’s Office of Emergency Services

Many people have questions about how mailrooms and offices should handle mail that may contain a written threat of chemical or biological material inside, or mail that may contain some form of powder.

Following are common sense steps to take in workplaces. They have been developed jointly by health professionals, the FBI, and the California Governor's Office of Emergency Services.

The risk of contracting any disease from an envelope is extremely low. General awareness of one's surroundings and suspicious mail is appropriate.

General precautions for those who handle large volumes of mail:

  • Wash your hands with warm soap and water before and after handling
    the mail.
  • Do not eat, drink or smoke around mail.
  • If you have open cuts or skin lesions on your hands, disposable
    latex gloves may be appropriate.
  • Surgical masks, eye protection or gowns are NOT necessary or
If a letter is received that contains powder or contains a written threat:
  1. Do not shake or empty the envelope.
  2. Isolate the specific area of the workplace so that no one disturbs
    the item.
  3. Evacuation of the entire workplace is NOT necessary at this point.
  4. Have someone call 911 and tell them what you received, and what you have done with it. (Law Enforcement should also place a call to the local office of the FBI and tell them the same information.) Indicate whether the envelope contains any visible powder or if powder was released.
  5. Wash your hands with warm water and soap for one minute.
  6. Do not allow anyone to leave the office that might have touched the envelope.
  7. When emergency responders arrive, they will provide further
    instructions on what to do.


  • Do not panic.
  • Do not walk around with the letter or shake it.
  • Do not merely discard the letter.

For more information contact:
California Joint Information Center - (916) 262-1832