More than 100 mail handlers from around the University gathered yesterday (Oct. 31) for a presentation on heightened mail safety procedures and Harvard’s response to threats of bioterrorism. Mail, public safety, and health officials from Harvard and the city of Cambridge discussed updated procedures, shared health resources, and helped sort news from rumor. A new Web site especially for mail handlers, accessible from http://www.news.harvard.edu/specials/tradecenter/, posts detailed information and addresses specific concerns of anyone who handles mail.
Since initial reports of anthrax in Florida, 1,405 suspicious pieces of mail have been tested in the state of Massachusetts; none has tested positive for anthrax or other hazardous substances. Because of the increased vigilance, Cambridge HAZMAT was called every 20 minutes in the last two weeks. On campus, Harvard University Police Department (HUPD) and Environmental Health and Safety have responded jointly to more than 40 suspicious mail reports, none of which has resulted in positive tests for harmful substances. Cambridge officials praised Harvard for its handling of incidents.
The presenters urged the mail handlers, who came from some of Harvard’s 162 mail centers as well as from individual departments, to continue their vigilance. Mail handlers were urged to err on the side of caution, reporting suspicious mail to HUPD, who is working in concert with University, city, and state authorities to respond. The Web site http://www.news.harvard.edu/specials/tradecenter/ posts regular updates on campus safety.