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Mailroom Vulnerabilities: Where they Appear & How to Address Them

While digital security gets most of the press as we head towards 2017, physical security of your enterprise is not something that should be overlooked. Although keycards, security cameras, or a physical security presence of guards are all ways you can shore up the entry points or production floors of your operation, one area that also must be addressed is the mailroom.

Regardless of the size or potential risks to your mail center, basic mailroom security can protect your employees, the public, your assets as well as your property. By demonstrating a competency in security, you may deter any potential threats by either employees, or outsiders.

While you may think that some of the recommendations laid out below are not applicable to your business, it’s important to assess your organization’s needs – whether your operation has a large, dedicated mail processing facility or a simple reception area at your front desk – and apply the practices that are most appropriate.

Read on for our insights on where vulnerabilities appear in mail centers, and how enterprises of all sizes can address them.

Vulnerabilities & Best Practices

1. Letter or Package Bombs or Threats: While the chances your workplace will receive a mailed bomb are slim, incidents have, and will continue to happen. Threats that are phoned in, or finding a suspicious and potentially harmful bomb placed at your workplace or mailroom are possibilities that you should be prepared for. There are any number of reasons why a suspicious package may appear at your enterprise, ranging from a jilted spouse, to a disgruntled ex-employee. What is important to note is that however unlikely the scenario may be, it’s incredibly important to prepare for.

Fortunately, there are a number of steps that business managers can take to protect themselves. First, assess your vulnerability level. This includes both internal, and external risk factors, and the understanding that no enterprise is completely immune from an attack. Your CSO should meet with other top managers and consult with postal experts to determine your risk level, and devise an appropriate plan of action from there.

Take an honest look at where, or why mail threats may target your company – are you high profile? Were there recent layoffs? Are your products or services the subject of controversy? Once the initial conversations have been had, bring in a true postal expert to help you design the most appropriate solution for your particular, unique operation. Recommended steps for handling a suspicious package during screening are shown below, but an expert should be consulted when designing your full protocol.

2. Chemical, Biological or Radiological Threats:The other component of suspicious mail includes chemical, biological, or radiological threats. Both the motivations for sending this type of mail, and the recommendations for handling it are similar to bomb protocols. Staff who sort mail by hand should perform the screening, as they are the ones most likely to notice an issue.

No screening plan is ever foolproof. Appoint a mail center security manager who employees can go to when they are unsure of a package. Develop screening procedures and train employees accordingly. Alongside an expert, establish procedures for both confirming, and isolating packages that are deemed to be suspicious. Immediately notify the authorities if such a package does appear at your premises.

Prominently display a list of suspicious letter or package characteristics so employees can keep their training fresh in mind, and provide copies to all staff as well. The Postal Inspection Service’s Poster #84 is an industry-standard representation of suspicious or dangerous mail items.

3. Mail Theft: While the threat of theft is not as menacing as a bomb or chemical threat, what it lacks in nefariousness, it makes up for in commonality. Security against mail theft is vital to effective mail center operations. Lack of security can result in the theft of supplies, postage, mail contents, and most importantly – valuable, private and potentially protected information about your company or clients that could be contained in communications.

To make sure your mail center is secure, you should implement policies around the following areas: personnel security (background checks), access control, Registered Mail & high-value shipments, company funds, and postage meters.

Filling in the Gaps – Ultimate Best Practices

While a postal expert, or even outsourcing mail management responsibilities to an industry-specific company can help design and implement solutions to make your on-premises mail center as safe and effective as possible, one of the best ways to minimize risks to your employees and property, reduce costs, and increase efficiency of your operations is to centralize mail handling at a separate location from the rest of your organization.

Having a separate mail location limits exposure to any threats, and reduces costs by eliminating redundancies in equipment and staff. What’s better, is that you can likely find an outsourcing partner to handle all of these responsibilities for you, either at your location, or a centralized off-site hub; leaving you little to manage on your end, including security protocols.

If you’re determined to keep all mail operations on-site, you can help ensure the safe mail handling standards of your operation by conducting a risk assessment by evaluating these areas as a start:

  • Location of mail operations
  • Jobs and tasks involved in mail processing
  • Personnel who handle the mail
  • And, your customers

While starting the process to determine that your mail operations are as efficient, and more importantly, as safe as possible, it is a process every business should undertake, and review periodically; it is admittedly not an easy one. Mail operations fall well outside the areas of core competencies for most enterprises, and understandably so. If you’re unsure of where to begin, you can get in touch with a Novitex Postal Solution Architect who will be able to assist you. For additional information on safe mail handling practices, be sure to check the USPS website. 

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