HR postal workers calmly delivering

Despite the recent cases of anthrax being sent through the mail, it's business as usual at the Hood River Post Office.

"We've had the same systems in place for years for handling hazardous materials," said Postmaster Kevin Branson. But, along with the U.S. Postal Service nationwide, Branson began making latex gloves and face masks available this week to workers who want them.

"They're available and we won't fault anyone for wearing them," he said. But, he said, the main emphasis has been on keeping employees informed and alert.

"There's a big push (by employees) for information, and we're trying to fulfill that," Branson said. Awareness bulletins are being issued daily by the U.S. Postal Service, and Branson is making sure employees get all the facts related to the cases and the potential threats.

He said postal workers are on heightened alert for certain things, including odd shaped letters or parcels; mail with too much postage; letters or parcels with stained wrapping; and mail with no return address.

"Nothing without a return address flies," Branson said. "If a customer doesn't want to put a return address on a parcel, it goes by ground."

He said some Hood River postal workers have been apprehensive, but not fearful. Most appreciate that Hood River is a small community, and the likelihood of something sinister happening here is remote.

Postal worker Jeff Loeffler isn't concerned and doesn't plan on wearing gloves or a mask -- or taking any other special precautions. Like Branson, he thinks the best antidote to the spreading anxiety is information.

"I can appreciate people's concerns," he said. "But basically, you have a lot of uninformed people that catch bits and pieces of information."

"This seems to be more of a psychological hazard than a biological one," said Branson who, based on his years in the military, rates anthrax "right up there with poison oak.

"You don't want it, but it's curable."

He encourages everyone -- postal employees and customers alike -- to become informed and "just be alert." He also warns that anyone looking to play on the current fear with hoaxes will be dealt with seriously.

"They're going to investigate everything," he said. "Whether it ends up being a hoax or not, there will be serious consequences.

"As far as the mail, we're going to deliver it and give the best customer service we can."

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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