Packages considered to be suspicious are usually found when the truck from Frankfurt airport is unloaded, said Shawn Mestres, postal supervisor at the Wiesbaden Postal Service Center. Someone picking up packages at the conveyor belt notices something and notifies the supervisor.
“There is always a supervisor present during the off load process,” he said.
Anything unusual such as powder residue, a smell, leaking, noises or wires hanging out of the box is a reason to take a closer look at the package, Mestres said. If an employee sees something, he or she immediately calls for the supervisor.
All personnel stand back, until the supervisor determines whether the parcel poses a risk or not. If a risk cannot be ruled out, the supervisor will evacuate the building and call the Directorate of Emergency Services, Mestres said. All employees will gather at their outside assembly point. DES will then determine how things will be handled.
“We distinguish between suspected explosives and hazardous materials,” said Daniel Corzelius, DES fire chief. In the case of hazardous materials, the fire department has the lead and law enforcement is on the supportive side.
“We have never had a bomb,” Mestres said. The most likely scenario is white powder residue coming out of a cardboard box, which is most of the time identified as baking soda.
Supervisors are trained to look for certain characteristics that help determine whether a package might be a threat or not, Mestres said.
When a package is leaking and DES is informed, “a team donning encapsulated protective suits enters the area utilizing different chemical detection devices in order to define the level of hazard,” Corzelius said.
They will test for nuclear, biological or chemical substances, he said. With the hazardous material identifier, up to 42,000 different substances can be analyzed.
The law enforcement side will simultaneously track the sender and receiver of the suspicious package to gain information on the expected contents, Corzelius said.
When sending a package, “all liquids should be put into a plastic bag or use absorbent material inside the box to prevent leaks,” Mestres said. “You don’t only damage your box, but also someone else’s parcels.”
Mestres also recommends taking the batteries out of any electronic device.