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SALT LAKE CITY — The holiday rush is in full swing at post offices around the country to ensure packages, parcels, letters and Christmas cards all get delivered on time.
"Without our people, there's no way we can make the holidays happen," United States Postal Service communications specialist Rod Spurgeon said.
The employees are the ones who "make the magic happen" and Spurgeon said mail service has been preparing for the holiday season all year long.
Inside the USPS Priority Mail Center in Utah, dozens of workers are operating hundreds of machines to sort and process thousands of packages every hour. Employees are working 12 hours a day, seven days a week, to make sure mail gets delivered during the busiest mailing, shipping and delivery week of the year.
"We process all of these Christmas presents throughout the season and I just love it because we get to bring magic to all these kids around the world," holiday helper and USPS worker Yvette Allgood said.
Allgood is one of several workers who wears a Christmas hat as she drives carts holding pallets of parcels around the center to get them to the correct sorting spot.
USPS has been integrating technology into the mail sorting process via automated self-driving machines. Spurgeon said things have come a long way in automation and USPS is taking advantage of all the latest technology to improve its services.
The Priority Mail Center uses FRS machines, or flex rover sorters, which are robots that help organize oversized packages that can't be sorted in other processors. The center also has a couple of automated guided vehicles, which are self-driving carts that can complete about 1,000 missions a night.
Incorporating technology in the mail process multiplies production and "let's us do so much more," Spurgeon said.
USPS Plant Manager Chad Oborn said working in the postal service is a challenge, but he loves seeing it all come together every night.
"It's awesome the way our employees come together at the busiest time of year," Oborn said. "They take that challenge on knowing there's going to be some long days ... but they do it to make it happen and it's rewarding to see that plan come together on a nightly basis.
According to a news statement from USPS, an estimated 149 million people will visit usps.com this season to get Priority Mail boxes, print shipping labels, purchase postage and use the next-day package pickup service. A predicated 250 million customers will visit post office locations this season, with Dec. 12-17 expected to be the highest trafficked week.
The deadline for overseas military mail is Friday, Dec. 9. For domestic mail, first-class mail needs to be sent by Dec. 17 and priority mail by Dec. 19. The very last day to send something through USPS and have it arrive by Christmas Day is Dec. 23 through priority mail express.
Nationwide, USPS has processed about 5 billion cards, letters and packages this season, so far, Spurgeon said.
Spurgeon said to ensure your package gets sent safely, avoid wrapping paper and bows on packages and double-check addresses, especially the zip code and apartment number, if applicable.