SACRAMENTO — California Highway Patrol officials briefed state mailroom workers Friday on how to handle increasing fears about the spread of the anthrax.
Gov. Gray Davis requested a series of training sessions after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, said California Highway Patrol Commissioner D.O. “Spike” Helmick. On Friday, Davis directed all state government mailroom workers to suspend opening mail until they have received the training.
“We are not doing this out of fear of any specific threat,” Helmick said. “We are not aware of any specific threat to a state building or state employees or to anyone for that fact.”
About 50 people who handle mail for top-ranking state officials attended Friday’s briefing in the governor’s office. An additional briefing will take place Saturday for other state workers and a training video also will be made available, according to Davis spokesman Steve Maviglio.
“Although no reports of anthrax have been received in our state, it is critical that all Californians be alert,” Davis said in a statement issued Friday.
Vince Curry, CHP’s hazardous material training officer, told the group about telltale signs of suspicious packages, such as unusually large amounts of postage, a lack of return address and sloppy or overseas addressing.
He also provided educational materials to the group about the anthrax bacteria, its causes and treatments.
Helmick said rubber gloves will be provided to workers who handle mail. And he advised workers to immediately report suspicious packages or letters to authorities.
“The less contact you have with the substance, obviously, the better,” he said.
All state employees who handle mail are trained when they’re first hired about how to spot potential bombs and other threats, Helmick said.
In this busy bill-signing period, the governor’s office alone receives about 25,000 pieces of mail a week, aides said.
Armando Pacheco, an office assistant for the State Department of Insurance, attended the briefing.
“It’s pretty scary to think that you are the first person to know what’s going on,” he said.
On the Net: The FBI’s Web site includes tips on what to do if you receive suspicious mail at http://www.fbi.gov/. Davis has posted information from the FBI and state Health and Human Services Department at http://www.my.ca.gov