Safety tips for spotting suspicious packages

Published: Mar. 21, 2018 at 5:25 PM CDT
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The recent news about the serial bombings in Austin Texas may have you worried about your safety and what's left on your doorstep.

And it's an unfortunate part of the world we now live in that you even need to be vigilant when it comes to your mail.

"The explosive devices today aren't like what we saw when we were kids where there would be three sticks of dynamite with an alarm clock on them," explained Bill Spence, a fire marshal and member of the Springfield Fire Department's bomb squad. "They're very well-concealed and can be as small as an item in an envelope."

And that's why even though millions of packages go through security inspections every day before they leave the U-S postal service or private firms like Fed-Ex and UPS, not all the dangers are detected.

"It can happen. Obviously it does happen," Spence said. "And those are the things we want to make the public aware of."

So once your delivery reaches your mailbox or front porch, there are some signs for you to watch for.

Obviously ticking sounds or wires sticking out, but also notice if there is a powdery substance, an oily stain or an odd smell. Some less obvious signs include no return address, restrictive markings like "personal", "confidential", or "do not x-ray", misspelling of your name or a title only ,or excessive postage that signals the sender possibly didn't want to come into a Post Office.

"With everything that's going on right now it's on everyone's mind," explained Bill Spence, a fire marshal with the Springfield Fire Department's bomb squad. "At this point if you have something suspicious, we don't want you to pick it up for sure. We don't even want you to approach it. Remember that these things can denonate with very little involvement as far as the person. Don't go over to it, don't move it, don't pick it up. If it's unusual and you think it's suspicious, just call the authorities and have it looked at."

While there's a difference in being viligant and paranoid, Spence says it's O.K. if his bomb squad, the busiest in the state with around 100 inspections per year in 18 counties, gets more calls than turn out to be false alarms. Because the bottom line is, "we don't want anyone to get hurt."