Would your staff know what to do if a suspect package was found in your building?

Jason wakefield, director at todd research shares his insight and explains the risks your mailroom faces every day.

Following the recent powder and Improvised Explosive Device (IED) attacks on government and religious establishments, mailroom security has become one of the big challenges facing Heads of Risk and Security.

For many people it will be surprising that suspected IEDs and other suspect packages are found daily in the UK. And as the methods of delivering suspect packages increases, it is also very easy for businesses to become complacent with their daily mailroom operations. Your mailroom operatives, with effective training, and scanning devices are your first line of defence against postal treats. It is therefore imperative for the safety of everyone that X-ray scanning machines are capable of detecting the latest threats in the form of powders, fine wires and biological agents and that the operators of X-ray machines are a highly trained team aware of modern and ongoing threats.

Threat Assessment

The first step for any business looking to secure its mailroom is a Threat Assessment. New customers of Todd Research are currently offered a thorough mailroom threat assessment. It starts by examining all current processes and equipment and identifying specifically how each business would combat any potential postal threats, putting the organisation on the front foot.

The assessment examines risk at entry to the builing; how visitors are screened and bags searched when entering the building. How post and parcels are delivered, including the physical location of the post room within the building, and pinpointing any potential surrounding threats that may be business critical. Rather than a single point of entry, we often find that there are multiple points of entry for post in the building; for example, Royal Mail and courier deliveries into a loading bay and hand delivered items through reception. This all need to be considered as part of the Threat Assessment.

We then look at current known threats in the form of chemical or biological agents, including powder or liquid form, as well as explosives and items designed to inflict physical and psychological harm and how the business would specifically handle or overcome these threats. In addition, we identifying any services such as computer servers, utilities and any key personnel within your organisation that may be in a potential blast area, so that any detonation would have minimal effect to the business and the area affected can be closed off safely and with ease.


Following the threat assessment, recommendations and an action plan can be produced detailing all required security measures, including what to do if a suspect package, weapons, powders or explosives are found. This provides the business with a thorough understanding of the threats and how to protect the building and the people within it.

Investing or upgrading a mailroom X-ray machine is often the first action for most businesses. If you currently own an X-ray machine that is over 8 years old, the chances are the machine will be inadequate in dealing with today’s suspect devices and the advancing capabilities of terror threats. There are various different types of machine available, from a variety of manufacturers, but essentially there are two types - cabinets and conveyors.

A conveyor machine, such as the Todd Research TR70, is similar to what you see at any airport to scan hand luggage.  It is an effective scanner for when the flow of mail is constant and a number of large packages entering the business. The conveyors have some additional optional software options:

  • ADS (Advanced Detection Software) - this is advanced algorithm software that works by identifying the atomic number in explosive substances and contraband, this then highlights to the operator explosives within a red box and contraband within a yellow box, making it easier for the X-ray machine user to identify potentially dangerous or banned substances.
  • TIP (Threat Image Projection) - a technology that shows screeners artificial but realistic x-ray images during the routine baggage x-ray screening operation. This technology is useful for quality control, risk analysis and the assessment of individual screener performance.

Cabinet scanners are also proving popular with many businesses because they create a lower carbon footprint and cost 50% less than a conveyor. For example, Todd Research’s best-selling cabinet X-ray TR15 model is currently used in every British Embassy across the world.

The TR15 X-ray cabinet is operated by opening the chamber door, placing the items to be scanned inside, then a single push button operation generates an image. Once the image has been generated the operating software, with advanced features, makes the identification of suspect items easier.  These advanced features include EPD (Enhanced Powder Detection) for the ease of identifying powders such as anthrax or Ricin, as well as an email facility to send the picture of a suspect package to a third party for assessment. The advanced features also include a zoom control, density alerts and 3 point colour, which have all been designed to help the user to easily identify what is inside the package they are scanning.

Our assessment also includes testing the effectiveness of existing X-ray machine as well as anyrequirements for training of the X-ray operators, so that they are proficient in the use of the X-ray machine and its enhancement tools.

Business Continuity

Once the assessment and action plan is in place, we show businesses how they can achieve full IRR1999 compliance and keep staff up to date with all current terror threats following the countrywide alert status set by MI5 and introducing them to the CTSA (Counter Terrorist Security Advisor).

An overview of groups that may target businesses in the surrounding areas will also be identified and reasons why they would specifically target your organisation; it is important to also consider the lone activist, disgruntled employee or customer with a grudge.

A reporting schedule will be put into place, recording any mail attacks, tracking current trends and methods used by individuals or groups which can also be used as a staff training tool.

When new machines are installed, Todd Research provides an induction training course on the use of all our X-ray machines with refresher training delivered every two years to ensure operators are able to identify the key components that make up a suspect package. We also recommend that operators attend an endorsed suspect package training course to give them further knowledge on the types of threats or devices that can come through the postal system and what these look like under X-ray conditions.

Finally, we assess and ensure that a business can still operate effectively if it were to evacuate the post room area by identifying a co-location either on another site or in another part of the building. Full procedures with actions on finding suspect devices will be written, practiced and updated on a regular basis, so that operators and security staff know exactly what to do if a suspect device is found. 

Employees, customers and visitors to a building feel secure when they see these security precautions in place. However, it is important to understand that the secret to security success is as much in the assessment, recommendation and implementation of measures and regular awareness training.

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Me and You Education is a collaboration between two companies with divergent backgrounds that provides deep insights into the murky and complex world of Counter Terrorism.