Please share this.
The USPS efforts in the wake of Katrina sounded pretty impressive during a CNN interview with Postmaster General John Potter so I went to the web site for more information. They’re making a great effort but the site information is barely penetrable. Next step: a phone call (not as easy as it sounds) to the media office; I heard back from someone within the hour — and I was glad I made the effort. Some key points:
- People are sending money and other materials to the Astrodome and other shelters addressed to "any survivor." USPS spokesman Bob Anderson said that is causing more problems, in part, because some organizations won’t accept it; also, I gather, because it adds volume. Instead, the USPS asks that donors give cash to the relief agencies, organizations, their religious institution — anywhere but through the mail to unknown recipients.
- Different shelters have different mail procedures. For instance, Mr. Potter mentioned giving people at the Astrodome individual P.O. boxes. That’s not the case for all evacuees or even for everyone there.
- If you are trying to reach someone via mail the best bet is to send it to their old address unless they have given you a specific new one.
- Survivors should make change of address requests ASAP even if they are only going to be somewhere for a few days. (The shelters should be able to provide the right address.) Electronic requests have the fastest turnaround — 24 hours and can be done for someone if they can’t reach a computer. Phone calls should be nearly as fast: 1-800-ASK-USPS (1-800-275-8777. The slightly slower standby: go to the nearest post office and fill out a form. The spokesman told me the rerouting starts as soon as the request is processed so anyone filing today could start to get mail in the next few days.
- The web site may be misleading to some in one important respect. Some forms of mail are not being accepted for delivery to certain zip codes but I have been assured that doesn’t apply to first-class mail.
I urged him to ask for a more accessible explanation online both for survivors and for those trying to reach them. He said he would try. BTW, I made it clear when I left the message that I was not calling for an established media outlet but for information to share online.