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Praise for letter carriers’ participation in CRI

A Postal Regulatory Commission hearing today focused partly on the Cities’ Readiness Initiative, a program that uses the Postal Service's universal network and the voluntary participation of letter carriers to protect Americans in the event of a biological incident, such as a terrorist attack.

Officials from the Department of Health and Human Services, the U.S. Postal Service and the PRC praised National Association of Letter Carriers President Fredric Rolando and rank-and-file letter carriers for their role in the program.

During the commission's monthly meeting, a USPS representative said that the unions representing both city and rural letter carriers—the NALC and the National Rural Letter Carriers’ Association, respectively—are "highly engaged” in providing volunteers for the initiative, and that NALC leadership, from “President Rolando to the branches and the shop stewards,” have been “very instrumental” in making this program work.

The program, which thus far includes Louisville, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Seattle, Philadelphia, Boston and part of San Diego County, involves letter carriers being trained to deliver medicines to residents in the aftermath of a biological event.

The Postal Service network was described as being ideally suited for this important effort to protect Americans—more so than any other institution. The Cities' Readiness Initiative was cited as an example of the value of the universal network—and of type of roles letter carriers play beyond delivering mail, often to little public attention. The type of inter-agency cooperation within the federal government that makes such a program possible was lauded, and cited as something that should be built on.

The CRI is designed to help reduce residents’ exposure to a biological threat by encouraging them to stay in their homes, with letter carriers bringing vital medicines to them. The role of HHS in the initiative is to manage the safety of the letter carrier volunteers by making sure they have access to special medical kits that allow them to inoculate themselves first before venturing out to deliver medication to their patrons.

The Cities’ Readiness Initiative “proves that the Postal Service is about more than delivery of hard copy mail,” PRC Chairman Ruth Goldway said. “One of the [postal] network’s strengths is that it’s better suited than other delivery methods, with letter carriers familiar with every street.

“Even during the recent heat wave,” she noted, “letter carriers got the mail through,” something she said demonstrates the importance of the USPS’ unique infrastructure. “I hope we can build on this network in other not-so-dramatic situations, such as fires, floods and food-poisoning outbreaks.”