By Stephanie Richards
A FBI official met with Utah County and local safety personnel Wednesday, Oct. 24 to coordinate their procedures for handling suspicious packages.
The Provo and Orem fire departments, the county sheriff department, the bomb squad, and BYU emergency preparedness personnel teamed together to unify their response to the increasing number of calls to open unmarked packages.
Provo firefighters are being called out to investigate suspicious packages two or three times a day, said Coy Porter, deputy chief of the Provo fire department.
Lt. Edwards of the Orem fire department also reported an increased number of calls for suspicious packages and envelopes in Orem.
Due to the increased call flow, county and local personnel met to discuss their response to these packages.
“We typically haven”t been in the letter opening business before,” Porter said.
The team created a set of standard procedures that would take the proper precautions to protect employees.
When a call is received, the closest safety team is sent to respond to the call, Porter said.
Photographs are taken of the envelope or package, and then it is placed in a 10-gallon plastic bag.
Depending on the size of the package, the item is opened in a spacious field or at the current location, Porter said.
The safety team then proceeds to open the package through the plastic bag.
After the package has been opened, safety crew notifies the county health department, the FBI, and BYU safety awareness personnel, Porter said.
“The bottom line is that we need to make sure we communicate,” said Kerry Baum, BYU emergency preparedness coordinator.
The Provo fire department has also received mail from other cities asking for their assistance in properly opening the letter.
“It is more of a public calming response, but we are more than happy to do it,” Porter said.