Video: USPS emergency drill prepares workers for the real thing

HAMPDEN, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — If a suspicious package shows up at the United States Postal Service facility on Penobscot Meadow Drive in Hampden, there is a disaster plan ready to be put into effect.

Making sure that everything is done by the book can save lives, which is why the postal service hosted a disaster drill at the Hampden distribution center. The facility handles mail for all of eastern Maine, so employees need to be prepared for the worst.

A drill held on Tuesday was a practice run for law enforcement and employees on how to respond to a suspicious package. The training lesson was geared towards knowing how to react to potentially dangerous situations. The exercise included an evacuation of the facility, arrival of emergency vehicles, and decontamination activities.

Read more: USPS emergency drill prepares workers for real event.

Police, Fire respond to call of powdery substance found at McAlester OK Post Office


McALESTER — A woman with a PO Box at the McAlester Post Office received a scare Sunday morning when she found an unmarked package with an unidentified white powdery substance inside, according to police.

Det. Sgt. Chris Morris said that the powder was shipped to be tested. It is believed to be headed to Oklahoma City for the testing.

Morris also said that the investigation is now being handled by the postal inspector and the FBI.

Read more: Police, Fire respond to call of powdery substance found at McAlester Post Office. » Breaking News » McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK.

Deadly Letters: Connecticut Woman, 94, An Unlikely Victim Of 2001 Anthrax Mail Attacks

For weeks Ottilie Lundgren hadn’t been able to shake a pesky cold, so when her niece Shirley Davis visited her Oxford home on a Friday morning and found the 94-year-old woman was having difficulty breathing, they went to the hospital.

“I remember she kept telling me, ‘I don’t know why I am so sick. What could have happened to me that I’m still sick?’ I’ve never had anything like this before,’ ” Davis recalled recently. “Oh Lord, if she only knew the truth.”

Lundgren loved to read a good mystery but seemed an unlikely candidate to become a central character in one.

But that is exactly what happened after Davis brought her to Griffin Hospital in Derby on Nov. 16, 2001. For days doctors did tests trying to find out what was making Lundgren so sick. It wasn’t until one doctor tested for anthrax that the reality set in — somehow a mostly housebound elderly woman had been poisoned with the same anthrax that had been sent to U.S. senators and media outlets.

Read more: Deadly Letters: Oxford Woman, 94, An Unlikely Victim Of 2001 Anthrax Mail Attacks –

Video: Detection System at Memphis Postal Center Didn’t Detect Ricin

(Memphis) After the 2001 anthrax attacks, the United States Postal Service installed Detection Systems to detect the presence of anthrax in many of their processing and distribution centers. However those systems do not detect ricin.

“I know it does test for many things. I’m not sure if ricin is one of those. I know it does test for anthrax,” said David Walton from the United States Postal Service.

However offsite mail facilities in Maryland were able to detect ricin in letters addressed to Senator Roger Wicker and President Barack Obama.

Read more: Detection System at Memphis Postal Center Didn’t Detect Ricin |

Anthrax panel releases report

In 2001, anthrax spores found in letters mailed across the country were responsible for killing five people and sickening 17 others, shutting down the U.S. Postal Service in certain areas and alarming Americans.

A panel of scientists, led by Lehigh President Alice P. Gast, was charged with reviewing the scientific evidence related to the FBI investigation of the anthrax letters. The panel’s report found that it is not possible to reach a definitive conclusion about the origins of the anthrax in letters based on the science alone.

“We find the scientific evidence to be consistent with their conclusions but not as definitive as stated,” Gast said during a news conference in Washington, D.C. She emphasized that this case rests on the complex interface between science and the law enforcement investigation. The panel, after reviewing 9,600 pages of material, could not rule out that there were other sources of the anthrax spores.

In 2008, the FBI asked the National Research Council to appoint a panel to conduct an independent review of the scientific approaches, methodologies and analytical techniques used in its investigation and to determine whether the FBI reached appropriate scientific conclusions. Panelists whose expertise included microbiology, medicine, physical chemistry, biochemistry and forensic science were not asked to judge the law enforcement investigation. The FBI’s investigation connected the letter materials to a flask in the lab of a researcher at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID).

"We believe this independent review — done at the FBI’s request — will help strengthen the law enforcement and national security community’s scientific and analytical capabilities in future investigations," said Gast, who is also a member of the National Academy of Science’s Committee on Science, Technology and Law. “This was an opportunity to provide a really in-depth look at how science is performed in the context of a national emergency and in the context of a law enforcement investigation with many experts being worked with across the country.”

Click here to view a webcast of the panel’s findings.