Community service

Carrier Alert

Your neighborhood letter carrier wants to help you

Carrier AlertCarrier Alert is a cooperative community service program to monitor the well-being of elderly and disabled mail patrons. As one of the few—and some days only—point of human contact for home-bound patrons, letter carriers are particularly attuned to signs that could mean an accident or illness. Carrier Alert, begun in 1982, is a system to tap into that sensitivity. 

When a carrier notes something unusual concerning a patron registered with Carrier Alert, he or she reports it to a postal supervisor or other designated individual who in turn contacts the sponsoring local agency. They check on the person and if something's wrong, contact family, police or emergency services as appropriate.

Carrier Alert is a joint program of the NALC and the Postal Service, but its foundation is built on the local service organization, which might be the local United Way, Red Cross or Agency on Aging. The agency handles promotion, registration, administration, establishing local procedures and funding.

Because participation is voluntary and operation depends on local agencies, the Carrier Alert program is well established in some regions and little known in others. Where it is in use it earns constant praise—just as letter carriers across the nation do every day, with or without a formal program, for their vigilance.

Delivering mail to the same residences day after day, letter carriers become familiar with customers' habits and often notice changes in routine that mean a patron is in distress. Accumulating mail is a common clue, but lights burning in midday, pet dogs crying, drawn draperies, or no tracks in the snow—all can signal trouble within.

To find out if there is a Carrier Alert program operating in your neighborhood or the community where an elderly or homebound loved one lives, contact the local NALC branch office or post office.

NALC branches that want to explore the possibility of establishing Carrier Alert in their community, should contact the local postmaster and major social service agencies. NALC branches can also download a PDF of the Carrier Alert brochure.

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