Officials take precautions

Routt County postal, emergency and health personnel prepared in wake of anthrax scares

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— Even though Routt County seems an unlikely target for the kinds of anthrax incidents that have occurred along the East Coast in recent days, extra precautions are being used in mail and delivery procedures here, postal officials said.

Diane Sather works at the post office in Phippsburg and said she really isn't concerned about receiving mail containing anthrax. But she has been adhering closely to procedures to identify suspicious looking mail.

Sather said she requires people to put return addresses on all mail that is sent, asks questions about mail that seems unusual and tries to keep track of the type of mail being sent and received. She said that the post office does not have to send mail if people refuse to put their return addresses on it, if it is leaking contents or if it appears suspicious in nature.

"Everyone is great about enforcing the extra rules," she says, "I think they are glad to see rules to protect their safety."

Sather said she feels fortunate to work in a small town where almost everyone who visits the post office is a regular she knows by name.

Barb Barker, the Clark postmaster, says she is doing her work with more vigilance than usual. She said she feels a duty to ensure mail service is not interrupted despite the handful of bio-terrorism incidents.

"Every American should bare the burden of terrorism, not just the soldiers who are out fighting for our country, Barker said.

Al DeSarro, spokesman for Colorado post offices, said residents should be suspicious of any mail that shows signs of leaking or stains, does not have a return address, has excessive postage, carries a strange odor or is in an odd-shaped package. He said residents should put return addresses on all mail, make sure packages are packed securely and notify senders of packages being sent to them in advance.

He said the postal employees are on a high state of alert and doing everything possible to insure high security.

"We've never faced anything like this in our history," DeSarro said. "But it's important to remember that America has the safest mail system in the world."

Like the post office, United Parcel Service is being more diligent in its procedures, particularly when handling international shipments, said supervisor Heather Yager.

She said UPS' open box policy alleviates many areas of concern, since all items being shipped can be examined. Also, most UPS shippers, Yager said, have a long history of shipping with the company.

Federal Express Station Manager Katrina Zupan said company policy prevents her from discussing FedEx procedures in response to the anthrax threat.

Meanwhile, county health officials said they are confident the county is prepared in the unlikely event an incident should occur in Routt County.

Dr. Dan Smilkstein, who met with fellow emergency and public health officials Sunday to discuss Routt County's preparedness.

He said the county is part of the Health Alert Network, a system that provides rapid alerts to health officials in the event of an incident.

Smilkstein said it is important for residents to remember that even if someone in the county is exposed to anthrax, the disease is treatable with antibiotics if caught early.

Still, he said, that's not likely to happen in Steamboat.

"This is a low-risk event, particularly for us," he said.

"People should be aware and alert, but they should respond calmly."

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