Monday, August 29, 2011

Snakes On A Plane! And Turtles & Birds, Oh My!!! Almost...

Coiled Snake In Hand
Coiled Snake In Hand
From the “Crazy Things People Take On Planes” files, here are some new additions involving snakes, turtles, and birds.

The first incident occurred at the Miami International Airport (MIA) and involved a gentleman with seven small snakes in his pants. (Insert inappropriate joke here) He also had three small turtles (Insert more jokes here) and they were all stored in lady’s hosiery in the man’s trousers. The snakes and turtles were found using TSA’s imaging technology which allows TSA officers to find potential threat items concealed from plain sight. U.S. Fish and Wildlife officers arrived on the scene and took custody of the reptiles. The passenger was arrested on the federal charge of “harboring reptiles in an unnatural habitat.” I made that up… the individual was actually charged with violating the Lacey Act.

Bird freed from sock.
Freed From The Sock
The second incident occurred at the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) when two birds were discovered during a pat-down that was being administered due to bulky clothing. They were wrapped in socks and taped to the leg and chest of a woman who was traveling to China. U.S. Fish and Wildlife officers arrested the woman on suspicion of smuggling and exporting an endangered species out of the United States.

TSA’s mission of course is not to find artfully concealed wildlife, but items taped to a passenger’s body could very well be explosives or some other dangerous prohibited item. We just don’t know until we check it out. Threats concealed under a person’s clothes remain a concern and this discovery, threat or no threat, once again demonstrates the effectiveness of TSA’s security techniques.

Snakes & Turtles In Hosiery
Snakes & Turtles In Hosiery
Snake
Released From The Hosiery
Birds Taped In Socks
Birds Taped In Socks 
Imagine the chaos that would ensue if a marmot were concealed in a pair of trousers? Kudos to the officers at LAX & MIA!


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, August 26, 2011

TSA Remembers 9/11: Stories From Our Workforce

Each individual employee’s personal story is priceless to our legacy. It’s important for an agency to know how far they’ve come and who has helped pave the way. TSA’s Historian Project realized the importance of this and built an online tool called StoryLine to capture these stories. StoryLine allows our employees to share their stories via an internal page viewable by all TSA and DHS employees. The first installment of StoryLine stories are centered on 9/11 and how the day inspired people to make the decision to work for TSA.

The stories posted were so good that we wanted to share some of them with our readers. Here are few excerpts:
“I mostly remember the flags that clear bright September day. I know that sounds odd, and I should have remembered something more striking or sacred, or feelings of vengeance perhaps, but the flags spoke and expressed my feelings in a way I could not.” (Read the entire story)
“Grey concrete dust was thick, covering every surface including the trees and sound was muffled by the virtual insulation which was maybe six inches deep. The scene was surreal.” (Read the entire story)
“We asked the photographers to help us dig. To their credit they put their cameras down and helped us. We went to an NYPD emergency truck that was blown sideways like a toy. We grabbed some shovels and pickaxes and dug frantically until we realized the futility of it.” (Read the entire story)
“When the first tower collapsed it was so surreal. This wasn't happening, I had to leave and go home. When the second tower collapsed I felt emptiness, a disconnection from my husband. I waited by the phone to hear from my husband.... The only communication was from our cable TV. Friends and neighbor would stop by, hoping that my husband would call.” (Read the entire story)
“Being an Army-trained Combat Lifesaver, I immediately ran toward the destruction – as so many of us did. Rendering emergency first aid, carrying casualties, everything and anything to help in this disaster is what we did.  For 22 straight hours, we did whatever we could on that HeliPad.” (Read the entire story)
“Germany became hauntingly quiet. A despondency swept the nation. German nationals stopped Americans on the street to shake their hands and offer condolences… often without words. Yet language differences did not inhibit understanding.” (Read the entire story)
“We were assigned a photography mission to further document the devastation. I nearly became fixated while circling in a steep bank to allow a State Police photographer to document the core of the destruction. The sight was, at once, exhilarating, mesmerizing and woeful. To know what had been there, and to now see into the bowels of the Trade Center’s core was overwhelming. I had to fight myself back into reality and remember I was piloting a helicopter in extreme conditions at low level!!”  (Read the entire story)
We selected a total of 28 stories to share from all across the US and surrounding territories. You can read the rest of the stories here. I could go on about how these stories are examples of the patriotism and  dedication our employees share for TSA’s mission, but I think the stories will speak for themselves.


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, August 25, 2011

Hurricane Irene Information

Hurricane Tracking Map
Click Map For Update
As you’ve probably heard in the news, Hurricane Irene is lurking off of the east coast. While hurricane preparedness isn’t really part of our mission, we are part of the DHS family and would like to share the following links with you:
The best things you can do are to stay informed, be prepared, and follow the direction of local officials. Stay safe!


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, August 18, 2011

TSA 10 Years After 9/11

The 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks is quickly approaching and it's been nearly a decade since the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) was created in response to the attacks. As somebody who started in the beginning, it is incredible to look back and see how far we've come and how much more secure aviation is today. 

The one year anniversary of 9/11 was my first day with TSA at the Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG). I joined TSA for the same reason many of my colleagues did: I was appalled by the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and wanted to help in any way I could. We’ve had plenty of questions over the past ten years, but one of the most common questions we hear is, “How has TSA made travel safer?” 

Well, here are just a few of the many steps we’ve taken, including those we have taken to address specific 9/11 Commission recommendations over the past ten years: 
  • In-Flight Security – Hardened cockpit doors, Federal Flight Deck Officers, the Crew Member Self Defense Training Program and an expanded Federal Air Marshal Service, better protect the flight deck against an act of criminal violence or air piracy. 
  • 100% Screening – Through Secure Flight, 100% of passengers flying to, from, and within the U.S. are prescreened against government watchlists. TSA screens 100 percent of checked baggage for dangerous items including explosives, and 100% of all air cargo transported on passenger aircraft that depart U.S. airports is screened.        a-e-i-o-u .
  • Professionalized Workforce – The Transportation Security Officers (TSO) working at 450 airports today are hired through a rigorous vetting process and extensive training that did not exist for the contract personnel who worked the security checkpoints on 9/11. TSOs have an average of 3.5 years of experience on the job, compared with the average of 3 months of experience for screeners prior to 9/11. Prior to 9/11, turnover in the industry was over 125 percent – today, TSA’s turnover rate is 6.4 percent. 
  • New Technology – Today through Advanced Imaging Technology and Automated Target Recognition, we can detect metallic and nonmetallic threats including weapons and explosives concealed under layers of clothing on passengers without physical contact. And, using Advanced Technology X-ray, Bottled Liquid Scanners and Explosives Trace Detection (ETD) Technology, we can more efficiently and effectively screen luggage and belongings for potential threats. 
  • Information Sharing and Detection – Through Secure Flight, Travel Document Checking and collaboration with our international partners, we can identify passengers who pose a risk to security, verify someone is who they say there are, and better protect the entire global aviation system.
Threats to airline safety are constantly evolving and TSA must evolve with them. We deploy an array of unpredictable and visible deterrents, and use a layered security approach to keep the traveling public safe.

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.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Traveling With Medication

TSA was in the news last week after a passenger alleged we prohibited her from bringing insulin through the checkpoint at Denver International Airport (DEN). While we did search the passenger’s bag after an alarm and did not allow an oversized, unfrozen ice pack to be brought on board, (in adherence with the 3-1-1 liquid regulations) our initial review of this incident including interviews with the officers and a review of the CCTV indicates that the cooler contained a sports drink and a melted icepack, but not insulin. Because the passenger stated that she was a diabetic, she was permitted to take the sports drink through the checkpoint. .
    
While we’re on the topic… Medication is ok to place in your carry-on or checked luggage in any form. From our web page: "All medications in any form or type (for instance, pills, injectables, or homeopathic) and associated supplies (syringes, Sharps disposal container, pre-loaded syringes, jet injectors, pens, infusers, etc.) are allowed through the security checkpoint once they have been screened. Atropens, an auto-injection system that can help treat many emergency conditions (low heart rate, breathing problems, and excess saliva related to insecticide, nerve gas or mushroom poisoning) are also allowed. We do not require that your medications be labeled." (Read More)

TSA works with over 70 disability-related groups and organizations to help us understand the concerns of persons with disabilities and medical conditions. These groups have assisted TSA with integrating the unique needs of persons with disabilities into our airport operations.

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, August 5, 2011

Weird Science: Traveling With Homemade Gadgets

Device Found At Omaha Checkpoint
Device Found At Omaha Checkpoint
You may have heard in the news recently about how a college student unintentionally closed down a TSA checkpoint with his science project. He had shipped it to Omaha, but decided to travel with it on his departure. Let’s be clear, it was completely innocent. He had no way of knowing his improvised mint tin would look like an improvised explosive device (IED) on our X-ray monitor. Most people wouldn’t realize it and the purpose of this post is to inform folks that homemade gadgets (however cool they may be) can look like improvised explosive devices to our officers on the X-ray monitors. You may remember a blog post from Nico about homemade gadgets from back in 2009. The devices we’re looking for don’t look like the Wile E. Coyote Acme bomb, they are smaller these days and much harder to find.

I spoke with Dave today from TSA’s Explosives Operation Division about what types of thing can cause your bag to be checked. Watch the video to see what he had to say.

So when you pack your bags for a trip, you may want to think about what items you are placing next to others to avoid the hassle of unintentionally creating an X-ray image which could cause TSA to conduct a further inspection of your carry-on and checked bags.


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, August 4, 2011

TSA To Pilot Using QR Codes® on Checkpoint Signage

QR Code
TSA understands the usefulness and the power of QR codes® and we’re about to start using them in a few airports to see how well the codes work with our checkpoint signage. First off, if you’ve never used or even heard of a QR Code®, you’re probably wondering what it is. Let me explain…

QR Codes® are two-dimensional codes readable by barcode readers on smartphones. If your phone doesn’t come with a reader, they’re available from multiple sources on the Internet for free. When the code is scanned, your phone will take you directly to a web page or other information without having to type any information into your phone.
Examples of QR Code SignageThis is a perfect way to say more with the limited space of traditional signage. For example, we can have a sign with a couple of tips about traveling with children, but by providing a QR code®, we can point your smartphone to a video or a page with much more information. This is something you can review before the checkpoint, or you can bookmark it and read it later if you’re in a hurry.

We’ll be using the codes for lost and found info, customer service, procedural information, travel tips and more! If you have any ideas or suggestions, be sure to leave us a comment.

QR Code is registered trademark of DENSO WAVE INCORPORATED


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.