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IFSEC Insider, formerly IFSEC Global, is the leading online community and news platform for security and fire safety professionals.
December 4, 2019

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Mail screening

The continuing importance of mail screening

MailScreen-19Despite the plethora of modern technology, most modern business environments still rely on the delivery of letters and parcels, while it is commonplace for employees to order personal items to their place of work. Here, Todd Research explores why it is crucial to ensure security departments have a trusted solution in place for mail screening.

The mail route into any organisation is destined to remain the preferred method for anonymously targeting a person or individual associated with a particular company or facility. The method requires little resource and the desired effect to disrupt the business from its daily activity can be achieved by the deployment of dummy or live devices, with little or no risk to the perpetrator.

Historically, these attacks have been the territory of organisations such as animal rights groups targeting pharmaceutical and medical research organisations. However, following the aftermath of the banking crisis this pathway has been utilised more in the financial sector, often by individuals seeking revenge or disaffected employees. Many businesses are currently assessing their mail screening function, which is being further complicated by the growth of internet shopping and the delivery of items to the work place. Unfortunately, the risk from dissident terrorist organisations has not gone away.

Before any processes are established, consideration should be given to undertaking an assessment of the threat or risk potential to the company – specifically what or whose mail should be screened, as well as the anticipated volume. Only after this can the correct screening equipment be specified. The best practice is to screen all mail coming onto the site using X-ray technology operated by vigilant, trained staff. Particular attention should be given to parcels arriving from random sources, such as couriers or those wishing to leave mail for individuals at reception, that may result in items circumnavigating the screening process.

Any equipment deployed is of course only as good as the staff operating it. A solid understanding of the operational capabilities of the equipment, coupled with regular training in understanding the characteristics of possible threat items, is therefore essential to avoid unnecessary and highly expensive evacuations due to misinterpreted or misidentified items.

Understanding the options

When choosing a supplier to provide screening equipment, a few things should be taken into account. Most importantly, ask these two questions:

  • Does the company have experience of dealing with similar organisations in your sector?
  • Does it offer a complete solution – from assessment of risk, capability of supplying the correct configuration of scanner, training, and the ability to support the equipment over its life?

Todd-MailScreening-19Advice on how to formulate a robust process for the screening of mail can be found via companies such as Todd Research with over 60 years’ experience in the screening of mail, national bodies such as CPNI (Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure), as well as Counter Terror Security Advisors in organisations such as the City of London Police. Solutions include cabinet scanners capable of showing security professionals the contents of packages via image enhancement tools such as Enhanced Powder Detection (EPD).

At Todd Research the installation of the equipment is only the first step. The next is to ensure the staff from the mailroom, security team and anyone involved in the escalation process understand the nature of threats to be encountered, how to deal with them and actions to mitigate false alarms. A support programme ensuring staff are regularly exposed to training is consequently put in place.

Users should be aware that there are also health and safety requirements to operate X-ray equipment and good suppliers should assist with the provision of radiation protection training and compliance with IRR2017 (Ionising Radiation Regulation 2017). Advice can also be sought via The Health Protection Agency (HPA).

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