Magazine article Security Management

Mail Monitor

Magazine article Security Management

Mail Monitor

Article excerpt

Management at Hoechst Marion Roussel, Inc. (HMR), an

international pharmaceuticals company that produces antihistamines such as

Allegra, has long known that mail screening is nothing to sneeze at. For

years, the company's U.S. headquarters in Kansas City had performed manual

screening of mail for explosives and other dangerous or suspicious items.

With the help of the local police bomb squad and officials from the Postal

Inspection Service, screeners were trained quarterly to sniff out telltale

characteristics of a mail bomb. But company growth led to an increase in

arriving letters and packages. After mulling over various possibilities,

the security department decided that an automated scanner would be the

right prescription for relieving congestion in the mail room.

Manual scanning "worked fine when we were a small organization," says Jeff

Marlow, manager of security systems at the Kansas City headquarters. But

visual inspection was only effective to a certain point, and management

decided to invest in something more.

Also, facility security determined that mail screening was growing more

critical in light of the company's expanding size and higher profile. HMR

not only manufactures products that target allergies but also produces

medicine for the treatment of such problems as cardiovascular diseases,

infections, cancer, and diabetes. By 1995, when management was exploring its

mail room security options, the company was growing quickly.

In its search for the right product, HMR reviewed published articles on mail

scanners, talked to vendors, and looked at hardware. The security department

also asked a local security systems integration company to provide a

consultation report on various machines. In addition, a staff member

contacted a law enforcement agency, which recommended backscatter

technology, specifically a product by American Science & Engineering, Inc.

(AS&E), of Billerice, Massachusetts. Backscatter technology detects

reflected x-ray energy, allowing detection not only of metals but also of

organic materials such as plastic weapons and agricultural products.

"There's such a variety of these types of machines," explains Marlow, "but

backscatter technology was the leading edge technology we wanted. All the

people we talked to said that was the way to go."

Marlow then requested a list of AS&E customers in the Kansas City area.

Representatives of the pharmaceutical company's security department visited

the offices of a large government contractor using the product, inspected

its machine, talked to personnel, and examined the screening process. HMR

security personnel were sold on the technology. The next step was to sell

the idea to management.

"We sat down with senior management and told them about exposures other

businesses have had," recalls Marlow, "and that we wanted to be proactive in

the protection of people. [Management] didn't hesitate."

HMR purchased three Model 66Z LobbySearch/MailSearch MICRO-DOSE X-Ray

Inspection Systems in late 1996 - one placed at headquarters, the other two

at other U.S. sites.

The next step was to train operators. Marlow had been told during his visit

to the contractor that the system was easy to learn. The contractor's staff

received two hours with a support technician, including instruction in how

to operate the machines and how to recognize suspicious packages. …

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