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TO: Superintendents of Schools and Principals


FROM: J. Duke Albanese, Commissioner


DATE: October 15, 2001


RE: Sensible Precautions in Aftermath of September 11th



Consider this advisory as an extension of Information Letter #25 sent to all school superintendents last Thursday, October 11, 2001. That communication recommended that schools open mail after students have left for the day.


With additional incidents regarding mail occurring nationwide and here in Maine, I thought that it would be prudent to share with you some guidelines that various agencies and organizations are using to assist them as they react to a variety of threats. Be advised that I met personally with those individuals at the Department who are the first handlers of the mail, reviewing these guidelines and discussing with them the kinds of precautions that we should take given the incidents that have occurred elsewhere. You may wish to do the same with your key people.


First and foremost, please view these guidelines as sensible precautions, being mindful that those who cast these threats are looking to instill fear, panic, and disruption in our daily lives. Our thoughtful and measured responses are key so that we as educators dont contribute to any heightened escalation that may, indeed, generate the very disruptions that we are striving to avoid.


For your perusal and possible use are the following guidelines that we have gleaned from the protocols of state agencies, recommendations from the Maine Emergency Management group, the FBI, and the National Guard.












The first person to handle incoming mail should be alert to the possibility that the school may receive mail that is meant to alarm, threaten, or in extremely rare circumstances cause harm. All staff should review these materials concerning how to identify suspicious mail.

Consider opening school mail after students and most personnel have left for the day.

Some possible characteristics of suspicious mail may be:

If you identify any mail that is suspicious, please do the following:

  1. Immediately cease handling the suspicious mail and ask people to leave the area.
  2. Immediately notify your supervisor or the person designated by your school.
  3. When they arrive, follow their directions.

Should you open any mail that contains a powder, fluid, or other foreign substance, do the following:

  1. Immediately cease handling the mail and contain it by placing a waste container over it.
  2. Clear the immediate area where the suspicious mail is located, ask anyone who was in the area not to leave the building, and notify your supervisor immediately.
  3. If they are not immediately available:
    1. Call your emergency numbers and provide them with the relevant information.
    2. Immediately secure the building, allowing no one to enter or leave.

4.       Upon the arrival of emergency response personnel, brief them at the door on the current situation and follow their instructions.




School systems should consider the following precautions in addition to local emergency plans.

      Lock all exterior doors. Use one observed entrance for access to the school.

      Lock interior doors to all sensitive areas whenever they are left unattended: mechanical room, HVAC room, kitchen, and food storage areas.

      Lock doors to all out-buildings and secure exterior areas such as propane tanks or gasoline storage.

      If heightened security is deemed necessary, consider a parking ban within 300' of school.

      If you are not familiar with any person on the school grounds ask if you can help them.

      Open school mail after students and most personnel have left for the day, to limit exposure to possible chemical or biological agents.

      Report any suspicious activity or packages immediately to law enforcement.

      If possible exposure to chemical or biological agents is suspected, secure the exposure area, isolate anyone who may have been exposed in a nearby room, and call for emergency personnel.

      Be extra observant. Write down details of suspicious events, descriptions of people, vehicles, and license plate numbers.

      Remember, an incident could be caused by a member of any ethnic group or race including Caucasians.


Nothing described here should supercede the safety protocols established by your school system.