Biological Threat/Suspicious Substance

The intent of the biological threat/suspicious substance response procedure is to provide calm guidance and instruction to members of the College community that may encounter such situations. The issue of biological threats and suspicious substances is a wide-ranging topic that creates a situation where preparation for every case is nearly impossible. For the purposes of this plan, we have focused on safe mail handling and suspicious packages. We recognize that great strides have been taken with the U.S. Postal Service and the awareness of suspicious packages in the workplace over the past few years. Ultimately, it is the individual’s responsibility to be aware of their surroundings and maintaining a calm demeanor. (Please see Attachment A for specific information)


The terms “biological threat” and “suspicious substance” are synonymous with mail/ packages and terrorism. One item of interest is that this type of attack is usually not meant to coerce behavior. It is either targeted at an individual or an organization with the implied purpose of causing a number of deaths or wide-spread fear. In past years, threats have focused on political leaders and members of the media. However, members of higher education have also been targeted (Una bomber).

Procedures and Response

We recognize that a layered approach is the best defense against biological threats and suspicious substances. First, there have been a number of advancements made in the U.S. Postal Service to reduce the risk of a suspicious package even making it to the workplace. Second, the Rollins College Post Office is the first line of defense on-campus. Post Office staff members work with and receive updates from the U.S. Postal Inspector on how to identify and handle suspicious packages. Finally, individual staff members need to have a general awareness of their surroundings and how to calmly react to a perceived threat. If a device, package or substance is perceived to be a threat, Rollins College personnel will notify and take direction from local, county, state and federal emergency management experts in an attempt to provide timely information and minimize risk to the rest of the College community.

Specific Responses

A. If you see or receive a suspicious package, letter, or note:

  • DO NOT disturb the package. Call Rollins College Campus Safety at ext. 2999 or 9-1-1, be prepared to provide the location of the package, a description, and your location and contact numbers
  • DO NOT open the item
  • DO NOT shake or empty the contents of any suspicious envelope or package Place in clear plastic zipper storage bag to prevent possible leakage of contents Wash your hands with soap and water Notify your supervisor Follow further instructions given to you by either Campus Safety or Winter Park Police

B. If you receive AND OPEN a package, letter, or note threatening anthrax contamination, or if a suspicious substance is present:

  • Call Rollins College Campus Safety at ext. 2999 or 9-1-1. Be prepared to provide the location of the package, a description, and your location and contact numbers.
  • Set it down gently at the location where you first opened it
  • Do not clean up the area. Keep others from entering the room or area
  • Turn off any fans in the area
  • If in a room, close the window(s) and door(s). Leave the room or area and go to an area that will minimize your contact with others Wash hands with soap and water if possible
  • If material is on clothing, don’t brush off vigorously
  • Notify your supervisor, who should instruct people not to enter or exit the area
  • Make a list of all people who had actual contact with the suspicious substance or were in the room or area Follow further instructions given to you by Campus Safety or Winter Park Police

C. In either case, what you should NOT do:

  • Do not pass the letter or suspicious package to others to inspect
  • Do not transport contents to a hospital, emergency room, or the clinic
  • Do not disturb any contents in the letter or package. Handling the letter or package can spread the substance and increase the chances of it getting into the air.
  • Do not ignore the threat; it must be treated as real until properly evaluated

Screening Mail for Suspicious Letters or Packages

A concern of many is the receipt of a letter or package containing biological agents. Many biological threats targeting individuals or departments can frequently be controlled by screening of materials and by following the procedures listed below. Responding public safety agencies have plans in place to deal with these types of threats. Following the procedures below will activate those plans and promote the highest level of safety while minimizing the disruption associated with these incidents.

The Rollins College Post Office is charged with the initial monitoring responsibilities for suspicious letters and packages in accordance with guidelines from the U.S. Postal Service. Many of the letters and packages arriving on campus have previously gone through one or more screening processes before arriving on campus. However, in the event that a letter or package is obtained by some means other than the College mail system, the following are common features of threatening letters or packages:

  • No return address
  • Handwritten or poorly typed address
  • Misspelling of common words
  • Restrictive markings such as “Confidential” or “Personal”
  • Excessive weight, or feel of a powdery or foreign substance

If a letter or package exhibits any of these warning clues, DO NOT OPEN IT. No one is at risk provided there is nothing leaking from the package. Call Rollins College Campus Safety at ext. 2999 or 9-1-1 to report the item and relate that the envelope has not been opened and there is no substance leaking out. Follow the instructions of law enforcement personnel. If you have questions or need more information, contact the Rollins College Campus Safety Department at (407) 646-2999.