Airport security checks in place

By Megan R. Harrell
Star Staff

A year after Richard Reid attempted to board an American bound airplane with explosives in his shoes, new screening devices mandated by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) are up and running at airports across the nation. Earlier this week, Tri-Cities Regional Airport began searching every piece of luggage for explosives before placing them on board aircraft.
   The TSA mandated that all 429 commercial airports in the United States begin screening baggage for explosives by December 31, 2002. Those traveling via airplane in the new year can expect to notice some delays during baggage check-in until all of the kinks get ironed out of the new system.
   Local TSA officials have been working with the Tri-Cities airport while it implements the new security system. John Hanlin, executive director of the local airport, said measures are being taken to make passenger delays as minimal as possible.
   "The Airport Commission has been working with local TSA staff to make sure the transition goes smoothly," Hanlin said. "At Tri-Cities, the checked baggage screening process will be done behind the ticket counters out of the public view to avoid congestion in the ticketing lines. Passengers may not notice too much difference, but the screening process will be every bit as thorough at Tri-Cities as at any other airport in the United States."
   Each airport is able to house the baggage screening devices where they deem best, but the method of screening will be regulated nationally.
   The biggest change travelers must adjust to is the fact that all bags will now be searched. The TSA has issued several tips to help passengers through the transition period. The organization advises passengers pack their luggage to make it easier to search.
   The TSA also asked passengers not to lock any of their luggage. They suggest using zip ties, cable or straps that can be easily removed. Inspectors will break locks if necessary in order to search bags.
   Laying out toiletries and other personal items on the counter will also expedite the baggage search process. If passengers do not want their personal property to be handled they should pack it in clear plastic bags so it is visible to the inspector.
   TSA officials also stated that the new machines will destroy any undeveloped film, so cameras should no longer be packed inside regular luggage.
   In addition to traditional traveling practices such as arriving at the airport early, airplane passengers are asked to use their common sense when dealing with the new security checks. Anything packed in luggage that looks suspicious will only slow down the screening process.
   In reaction to the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks the TSA was adopted as part of the Department of Transportation in November 2001. On March 1, 2003 the security agency will become part of the new federal Department of Homeland Security.