Thursday, June 30, 2011

TSA Cancer Cluster Myth Buster

This is old news, but it’s back in the news and since it’s such an important topic, we wanted to address it again to alleviate any concerns it might be causing.


Myth: There is a TSA employee cancer cluster at the Boston Logan International Airport (BOS) related to the backscatter body scanners.


Fact:  There is no relationship between any cancer diagnoses in Boston and the technology in the airport. (Based on a survey by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health). In fact, there were no body scanners at BOS when the complaints were filed.


I blogged about this back in May, but all of our X-ray technology (backscatter body scanners, and all baggage scanners) has been tested and retested and our scanners are operating safely. You can actually take a look at the reports and read about how we test the machines here


Common Questions: 


Q: Why aren’t your officers permitted to wear dosimeters? 
 

A: There is a really good reason for this. The emissions from our X-ray technology are well below the requirements that would require their routine usage. To  help reassure passengers and employees that the technology is safe, however, health physicists with the U.S. Army have been conducting area dosimeter surveys at multiple airports nationwide.



Q: Why doesn’t TSA allow third party testing for the backscatter technology?


A: We have. Independent third party testing and analyses of TSA backscatter technology have been conducted by the U.S. Army Public Health Command, the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Center for Devices and Radiological Health (CDRH), the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL). They all came to the same conclusion by the way. It’s safe…

Blogger Bob
TSA Blog

If you’d like to comment on an unrelated topic you can do so in our Off Topic Comments post. You can also view our blog post archives or search our blog to find a related topic to comment in. If you have a travel related issue or question that needs an immediate answer, you can contact a Customer Support Manager at the airport you traveled, or will be traveling through by using Talk to TSA.


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

TSA Will Work With Passengers To Resolve Security Concerns In The Most Respectful Way Possible

TSA is in the news this week after a security concern was identified during the screening of an elderly woman at a Florida airport. We are sympathetic to the passenger and regret that this event occurred at such a difficult time for her and her family.

While everybody does have to be screened, TSA works with passengers to resolve security concerns in a respectful and sensitive manner.  In no instance would our officers ask a passenger to remove an adult diaper.

We have reviewed the circumstances involving this screening and determined that our officers acted professionally, according to proper procedure and did not require this passenger to remove an adult diaper. Various options to proceed through the checkpoint were presented to the passenger and her daughter during private screening to resolve an anomaly discovered during a pat down. Although TSA did not request it, the daughter ultimately chose to remove the adult diaper in a bathroom and return to the checkpoint.

Out of respect for passenger privacy, we will not disclose further details about the screening of this passenger except to assure that all protocols for resolving security concerns were followed and to reiterate that TSA works very hard to ensure all interactions with passengers are done as respectfully as possible. 

Blogger Bob
TSA Blog Team

If you’d like to comment on an unrelated topic you can do so in our Off Topic Comments post. You can also view our blog post archives or search our blog to find a related topic to comment in. If you have a travel related issue or question that needs an immediate answer, you can contact a Customer Support Manager at the airport you traveled, or will be traveling through by using Talk to TSA.

Friday, June 10, 2011

ACCOUNTABILITY

Today, we announced the findings of a months-long investigation into allegations of improper screening of baggage at Honolulu International Airport (HNL).  The investigation revealed that a portion of checked

baggage presented to one shift of employees at one location, affecting a limited number of flights per day, were purposefully improperly screened.

The result?  Today, we delivered over thirty proposed letters of removal to employees implicated in the investigation (including two senior managers).  As Administrator Pistole said, "We hold our workforce to the

highest ethical standards and will not tolerate employees who in any way compromise the security of the traveling public."

Countless TSA employees work hard every day to protect travelers at airports nationwide.  These employees know that our success depends on their hard work, professionalism and integrity.  We have a serious job
to do, and anyone who is not doing that job will be held accountable.

Our country, our agency and the flying public deserve no less.

Nico Melendez
TSA Blog Team

If you’d like to comment on an unrelated topic you can do so in our Off Topic Comments post. You can also view our blog post archives or search our blog to find a related topic to comment in. If you have a travel related issue or question that needs an immediate answer, you can contact a Customer Support Manager at the airport you traveled, or will be traveling through by using Talk to TSA.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Response to Phoenix Checkpoint Video

 ***Update: 6/9/2011 - There have been many different interpretations of the photography portion of this post, so I wanted to clarify things a bit. We recognize that using video and photography equipment is a constitutionally protected activity unless it interferes with the screening process at our checkpoints.  While our current policy remains the same, TSA is reviewing our guidance to officers at the checkpoint to ensure consistent application.  Our goal is to protect passenger’s rights, while safeguarding the integrity of the security process. ***

You may have seen the video of a woman at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport who was upset about her screening experience. 

TSA takes all allegations of improper screening seriously and investigates each claim to the fullest. After reviewing this passenger’s time at the checkpoint, we found that our security officers acted properly and neither the CCTV footage nor this YouTube video support any of the allegations levied. Real violations of our protocols are worth every ounce of our energy to investigate, but this alleged incident does not meet that threshold. 

This incident has also raised many questions about whether or not passengers can film at checkpoints. This topic is currently under review, but you can read this blog post on our current  policy for photography at checkpoints.  

Blogger Bob
TSA Blog Team

If you’d like to comment on an unrelated topic you can do so in our Off Topic Comments post. You can also view our blog post archives or search our blog to find a related topic to comment in. If you have a travel related issue or question that needs an immediate answer, you can contact a Customer Support Manager at the airport you traveled, or will be traveling through by using Talk to TSA.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

TSA 2011 Summer Travel Tips

Summer Travel Banner

Summertime isn’t officially here yet, but with a heat index yesterday of 104°, you could have fooled me! The weather is definitely a reminder that summer is right around the corner. It’s time to figure out where you put all of your summer clothes and summery type outdoor thingamabobs. Now is also the time of year when your summer travel is quickly approaching and I’m guessing the last thing on your mind is spending an evening at TSA.gov researching your travel questions. So, we’ve taken all of our best travel tips and provided them here in one place in a handy dandy blog post.

Summer Travel Checklist Link
Summer Travelers Checklist: Be the envy of all your friends and download the all new collectable 2011 Summer Travelers Checklist.

My TSA iPhone & Mobile Web App: Have you downloaded our award winning MyTSA app yet? If not, it just may be the perfect new accessory to help you during your summer travel. No matter where you are, you’ll have easy access to information you need to get through security and onto the plane safely and smoothly with 24/7 access to the most commonly requested TSA information.

Can I Bring My… : What can you bring in your carry-on? What needs to be checked and what has to stay at home? Find out using our Can I Bring My… tool or take a look at our prohibited items list.

Are You Going Camping This Summer?: Check out this post for tips on traveling with your camping gear.

Packing: If you plan on locking your bag, be sure to use one of the TSA recognized locks so we can unlock your bag without breaking the lock. You can help speed up the screening process by packing your carry-ons in an organized manner. This helps our officers efficiently see what's inside to quickly process it through screening. Pack items in layers (shoes one layer, clothes one layer, electronics one layer, etc.) Pack large electronics on the top layer of your carry-on for easy accessibility. Place your 3-1-1 bag with liquids, gels and aerosols in the front pocket of your carry-on for easy accessibility. Packing: If you plan on locking your bag, be sure to use one of the TSA recognized locks so we can unlock your bag without breaking the lock. You can help speed up the screening process by packing your carry-ons in an organized manner. This helps our officers efficiently see what's inside to quickly process it through screening. Pack items in layers (shoes one layer, clothes one layer, electronics one layer, etc.) Pack large electronics on the top layer of your carry-on for easy accessibility. Place your 3-1-1 bag with liquids, gels and aerosols in the front pocket of your carry-on for easy accessibility.

Foods: Food items that are in the form of a liquid or gel are generally not permitted however, items such as cakes, bread, donuts, ham sammiches, etc. are all permitted. Here is a list of items that are prohibited at the checkpoint… Creamy dips and spreads (cheeses, peanut butter, salsa, jams and salad dressings, gravy (mmm gravy), jams, jellies, maple syrup, oils and vinegars, sauces, soups, wine, liquor and beer.

Leave Early: The best piece of advice I could give a traveler is to arrive early if you can. No matter what happens, (aside from a flight being cancelled) if you get to the airport early, you should be fine. Worst case scenario is you’ll have some extra time to people watch or play Angry Birds.

As you approach a TSA checkpoint, you’ll see an officer checking IDs and boarding passes. Please have your acceptable ID and boarding pass out and ready to present to our officer. If your ID is in a plastic sheath or other type of holder, it will need to be removed so our officers can properly inspect them. This will help speed things along. If you have lost or forgotten your ID, you will still be permitted to fly as long as you help us verify you are who you say you are by answering a few questions for us.
ID & Boarding Pass Checking: As you approach a TSA checkpoint, you’ll see an officer checking IDs and boarding passes. Please have your acceptable ID and boarding pass out and ready to present to our officer. If your ID is in a plastic sheath or other type of holder, it will need to be removed so our officers can properly inspect them. This will help speed things along. If you have lost or forgotten your ID, you will still be permitted to fly as long as you help us verify you are who you say you are by answering a few questions for us.

Secure Flight: Folks have had questions about the Secure Flight program and whether the name on your ticket has to match the name on your ID. The Secure Flight watch-list matching process occurs before a passenger even gets to the airport so if you get a boarding pass, the Secure Flight watch-list matching process is done. In other words, you are clear once you get that pass.

How to Get Through the Line Faster: We put together some great tips on how to get through our lines faster. Click here to read tips about the right clothes to wear, which ID to use and many other helpful tips and videos. If you travel through an airport with Advanced Imaging Technology (Body Scanner), ensure you remove everything from your pockets whether it’s metal or paper to prevent you from having to undergo additional screening. Also wear easily removable shoes. For example, flip-flops or loafers would be easier to kick off than knee-high lace-up boots.

Pat-downs: A very small percentage of passengers (less than 3%) will need to receive a pat-down. To reduce the need for a pat-down, the most important thing you can do is take everything out of your pockets before you go through screening. You can put these items in your carry-on bag. Don't wear clothes with a high metal content, and put heavy jewelry on after you go through security. You will also receive a pat-down if you choose to opt out of our Advanced Imaging Technology. (Body Scanners) Check out this post to read some myths and facts about the pat-down. TSA does not squeeze, twist, or grab any body parts during a pat-down and other than inspecting the waistband and collar, our officers are not reaching inside clothing or touching any skin.

3-1-1 Baggie
The 4-1-1 on 3-1-1 (Liquids, Gels & Aerosols): Let me start by saying this. If you’re checking a bag, make it easy on yourself and just put your liquids in your checked luggage. That way, you don’t have to worry about 3-1-1. I know that suggestion doesn’t work for everybody. Some liquids are essential and some of you understandably would not like to pay to check your luggage. If you’d rather take liquids in your carry-on, please continue reading…

3-1-1 is the name for our liquid policy. You can read here for more details, but here is the gist of 3-1-1… Each passenger is allowed to take one clear quart-sized sealable bag and fill it with as many liquids in 3.4 oz or less sized containers that will fit, while still being able to seal the bag. Make sure you take the bag out of your carry-on prior to sending it through the X-ray, or our officers may have to search your bag.

If you have liquids, aerosols, or gels that are used for medical purposes, they do not need to adhere to our 3-1-1 policies and do not have to be placed in a bag. You may be asked to go through a TSA Family Lane (see below) so we can expedite the screening process. The liquids, gels and aerosols will need to be removed from your bags.

Answers to common questions: Stick deodorant is not limited to 3.4 oz or less, but gel or spray deodorant is. Also, any liquid makeup such as eyeliner should be placed in the baggie. That goes for perfume as well. Powder makeup is fine.

Family Lane Signage
Family Lanes: Frequent flyers hate it when they’re in line behind a family, and guess what… families hate it when the frequent flyer is behind them tapping their foot and sighing. That’s why we created Family Lanes. They’re designed to let families take their time and ask questions without feeling rushed by the experienced frequent flyers who can zip through a checkpoint in no time. Also, as stated earlier, anybody carrying exemptible liquids, aerosols and gels in excess of 3.4 oz may be directed to a Family Lane.

Snow Globes: I know... Believe me, I know… It sounds so silly, but there really is a reason, and it’s not that we hate snow globes. They are sealed containers full of liquid that would have to be opened and destroyed to test. We’re not in the business of busting snow globes, so we suggest you place them in your checked baggage or mail them ahead of time.

Inconsistencies: You may notice your screening experience at one airport doesn’t match the experience of another airport. We realize this happens, and some of it is intentional. While it can be a little confusing for our passengers, it also makes things unpredictable for those who might wish to do us harm. Our officers also can use their discretion in different scenarios that allows them to use common sense and not abide by a checklist mentality that can be studied and defeated by those who wish to do us harm.

Here are some more links to tips for traveling with special items this summer:
If you’re traveling internationally, be sure to check out U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s international travel tips.

Bonus: How To Keep From Getting Sand Kicked In Your Face: Don’t wear this. Also, check out the USA.gov Blog for other summer related posts including one linking to NOAA's new online tool for getting water temps at your favorite beach! 

Have a great summer!

Blogger Bob
TSA Blog Team

If you’d like to comment on an unrelated topic you can do so in our Off Topic Comments post. You can also view our blog post archives or search our blog to find a related topic to comment in. If you have a travel related issue or question that needs an immediate answer, you can contact a Customer Support Manager at the airport you traveled, or will be traveling through by using Talk to TSA.