Suspicious Packages



In this instance, the term suspicious packages is being used as a general term to cover a number of articles that could pose a potential threat, to include letters, packages or parcels, and unattended luggage or backpacks. Potential threats include, but are not limited to, IEDs [improvised explosive device] that take any form and can be any size, biological hazards such as anthrax, chemical hazards, and radiological hazards.

It is possible to come in contact with a suspicious package at home, in your workplace, or in public. You should always exercise caution if a package seems suspicious; report it immediately, and be prepared to act in a manner that enhances your safety as well as others. Above all, if you perceive a threat, call 9-1-1 from a land line.



How to Prepare

  • Stay informed of possible or reported threats in your area.

  • Understand how to identify suspicious mail or packages.  

  • Become familiar with your office and community protocols for handling suspicious mail or packages and the contact numbers for regional/installation fire and emergency dispatch center, local security, law enforcement, and HAZMAT agencies.

  • Make a plan that includes identify­ing who you would immediately notify and steps you would take to safely protect yourself and others from suspicious mail or packages.

  • Build an emergency supply kit with non-perishables for your home, office, and car that includes gloves and a dust mask in case you must shelter in place, evacuate, or are placed in lock-down.


How to identify a suspicious package

This image depicts several physical characteristics of a suspicious package.

Signs to Look for

An article or package may:

  • Be unattended or arrive unexpectedly.

  • Have protruding wires, aluminum foil, powder-like substance, or oil stains, and emit a peculiar odor or sound.

  • Have excessive or foreign postage.

  • Have a fictitious or non-existent return address.

  • Have a postmark with a different location than the return address.

  • Bear restrictive endorsements, such as “Personal” or “Private.”

  • Have misspelled words, incorrect titles, and poor or distorted handwriting, or the name and address may be prepared with homemade labels or cut-and-paste lettering.

  • Be unprofes­sionally wrapped with several combinations of tape or string used to secure the package, and may be endorsed “Fragile—Handle With Care” or “Rush—Do Not Delay.”

  • Feel rigid, or appear uneven or lopsided.

  • Have an irregular shape, soft spots, or bulges.


What to do if you receive or encounter suspicious mail or packages

  • Remain calm, and listen to your intuition, without worrying about embarrassment if you are wrong. It is always better to be safe than sorry.

  • Don’t shake, open, touch, smell, or taste the article or any substances on the article.

  • Immediately call 9-1-1. Use a landline. Do NOT use a cell phone or device that sends a signal, as it could trigger an explosive device.

  • Notify your Commander to report and describe the suspicious article. If on or near a Marine Corps Installation, report the package at  

  • If in an airport or other passenger or freight terminal, notify Transportation Security Administration (TSA) personnel. 

  • Isolate the suspect parcel, but do not place it in water or a confined space such as a drawer, cabinet, or closet.

  • Keep others away.

  • Shut off air conditioning units and fans that could circulate possible chemical, biological, or other hazards to other areas of the building.

  • If possible, open windows in the immediate area to assist in venting potentially harmful or explosive gases.

  • Evacuate the immediate area, but do not leave the vicinity altogether until you have spoken with law enforcement, and they have cleared you to leave.

  • Pay attention to emergency or Marine Corps Mass Notification System alerts.

  • If you handled the article in any way, wash your hands with soap and water.

Set your own course through any hazard: stay informed, make a plan, build a kit. Live Ready Marine Corps.