Friday, November 30, 2012

TSA Week in Review: Loaded Gun Concealed in Carry-on Bag Charlotte (CLT)

A 45. caliber pistol loaded with seven rounds and a round in the chamber was discovered hidden under the lining of a carry-on bag at Charlotte (CLT).
Pistol discovered under lining of  carry-on bag at (CLT)

Items in the Strangest Places –It’s important to check your bags prior to traveling. If a prohibited item is discovered in your bag, you could be cited and possibly arrested by local law enforcement. Here are a few examples from this week where prohibited items were found in strange places. 

  • A 45. caliber pistol loaded with seven rounds and a round in the chamber was discovered hidden under the lining of a carry-on bag at Charlotte (CLT).
  • A two inch knife was detected under the sole of a shoe at Salt Lake City (SLC).
  • Two belt buckle knives were discovered this week at Fresno (FAT), and Rapid City (RAP).
  • A cane sword was discovered at Baton Rouge (BTR).

Loaded 45. caliber pistol discovered hidden under the lining of a carry-on bag at Charlotte (CLT). Two inch knife detected under sole of shoe at Salt Lake City (SLC). Belt buckle knife discovered at Fresno (FAT). A cane sword discovered at Baton Rouge (BTR).

Live flash bang grenade was discovered in the checked baggage of a passenger at Northwest Florida Regional Airport (VPS).

Inert Ordnance and Grenades Etc. – We continue to find inert hand grenades and other weaponry on weekly basis. Please keep in mind that if an item looks like a realistic bomb, grenade, mine, etc., it is prohibited - real or not. When these items are found at a checkpoint or in checked baggage, they can cause significant delays. I know they are cool novelty items, but it is best not to take them on a plane.  Read here and here on why inert items cause problems.

  • A live flash bang grenade was discovered in the checked baggage of a passenger at Northwest Florida Regional Airport (VPS). Along with the grenade were 20 rounds of improperly packaged 7.62mm ammunition. After a 42-minute evacuation, checked baggage operations resumed.
  • An inert grenade was discovered in a checked bag at Las Vegas (LAS). 
Inert grenade was discovered in a checked bag at Las Vegas (LAS).

Powder horn with approximately 3 ounces of black powder discovered at Little Rock (LIT).

Powder Horn – A powder horn with approximately 3 ounces of black powder was discovered in a carry-on bag at Little Rock (LIT). 
DIY Gadgets – Do it yourself (DIY) gadgets can often look like improvised explosive devices both on and off the X-ray monitor. Please take a moment to think about what you’re traveling with and how it might appear to TSA. You can read here and here about why homemade gadgets can cause problems.

A pair of shoes with wires attached to the heels, LAX.

  • A pair of shoes with wires attached to the heels (see photo) caused some concern at LAX. It turns out the shoes are designed to store energy.
  • An odd item was discovered in checked baggage at Newark (EWR). It was a piece of cardboard folded in half with Styrofoam in the middle attached with wires to aluminum foil on the ends. Turns out it was a contact switch for surveillance video.

What Not to Say at an Airport – Statements like these not only delay the people who said them but can also inconvenience many other passengers if the checkpoint or terminal has to be evacuated:

  • A passenger at Miami (MIA) told the ticketing representative that he had a bag full of dynamite. Five flights were delayed for a total of 4 hours, 56 minutes affecting 1,027 passengers. The passenger was arrested on a state charge.
  • After a gate agent at Orlando (MCO) informed a passenger she could not get her checked luggage out of the plane, the passenger stated: “Well what if I had put a bomb in it? Can I get it back then?”

Stun Guns –  Six stun guns were discovered this week in a carry-on bags around the nation: Atlanta (ATL), Harlingen (HRL), Orlando (MCO), Denver (DEN), Baltimore (BWI), San Francisco (SFO), San Jose (SJC), and Jacksonville (JAX)

Miscellaneous Prohibited Items - In addition to all of the other prohibited items we find weekly, our Officers also regularly find firearm components, realistic replica firearms, bb and pellet guns, Airsoft guns, brass knuckles, ammunition, batons, and a lot of sharp pointy things -- to mention a few… 

Ammunition, spiked rings, and bottle rockets.

Firearms - Here are pictures of some of the firearms our Officers found in carry-on baggage since I posted last Friday. See a complete list below.  

Loaded Guns
Loaded Guns
Loaded Guns

24 loaded guns discovered this week. 2 unloaded guns found.

You can travel with your firearms in checked baggage, but they must first be declared to the airline. You can go here for more details on how to properly travel with your firearms. Firearm possession laws vary by state and locality. Travelers should familiarize themselves with state and local firearm laws for each point of travel prior to departure

Unfortunately these sorts of occurrences are all too frequent which is why we talk about these finds. Sure, it’s great to share the things that our officers are finding, but at the same time, each time we find a dangerous item, the throughput is slowed down and a passenger that likely had no ill intent ends up with a citation or in some cases is even arrested. This is a friendly reminder to please leave these items at home. Just because we find a prohibited item on an individual does not mean they had bad intentions, that's for the law enforcement officer to decide. In many cases, people simply forgot they had these items.

If you have a travel related issue or question that needs an immediate answer, you can contact us by clicking here.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

TSA Pre✓™ is a Risk Based Recipe for Success

TSA Pre✓™ logo.
I recently read an article at Huffington Post titled: Is The TSA's Pre Check Program A Recipe For Disaster? The easy answer to this question is no, but that wouldn’t make much of a blog post, now would it?

TSA Pre✓™ enables us to move away from the one-size-fits-all approach to transportation security. It improves security by using intelligence and information volunteered by passengers to help us make informed decisions about the level of threat. You can read more about TSA Pre✓™ by clicking here, but I’d like to help clarify a few things I read in the article. TSA Pre✓™  improves the customer experience by expediting the screening process and allowing travelers to keep 3-1-1 and laptops in their bag. Shoes and outwear too can stay on.

On Mistakenly Being Screened Through TSA Pre: If you’re randomly chosen to be screened through a TSA Pre✓™ lane, it’s not a mistake. Not all TSA Pre✓™ members are affiliated with Global Entry, SENTRI or NEXUS. Many were selected by participating airlines based upon TSA established criteria and opted-in through the airline’s system at no charge. There are many ways to opt-in to TSA Pre✓™. Sometimes the opt-in is as simple as clicking “yes” on a pop-up box when you sign into your mileage account. The airlines have included several different methods (mail, e-mail, pop-up boxes when you login, account profile update alerts) to opt-in.

On Having to Pay to Join TSA Pre™: You don’t have to pay to join TSA Pre✓™. That’s right, while paying to join Global Entry, SENTRI or NEXUS is an option, many members have been selected by airlines and at no charge.

On Identity Fraud Concerns: No security plan is without some level of risk. You’ll never hear us say that security is 100% effective. There are just too many variables involved. Administrator Pistole said it best in a recent letter to the editor: “TSA has created a layered security approach so that all passengers who go through checkpoints, including those in the TSA “PreCheck” program, are subject to multiple security measures including behavior detection, screening and canine assessment that secure travelers and our nation’s aviation system.”

So, rather than thinking TSA Pre✓™ is a recipe for disaster, I hope you now understand that it’s more of a recipe for success.

If you have a travel related issue or question that needs an immediate answer, you can contact us by clicking here.

Friday, November 23, 2012

TSA 2012 Holiday Travel Tips & News

Holiday travel banner

We’re once again coming up on the busiest travel time of the year. I can’t believe it’s here already. I know I say that every year, but it seems like it gets here faster every year! TSA is fully staffed and prepared for the high volume of passengers this holiday season. We have coordinated staffing and are committed to processing passengers as safely and efficiently as possible. Passengers can make their experience better by coming prepared and arriving early.

As I’ve done the last several years, I’ve put a list of travel tips, news, and helpful links together to make your holiday travel a little easier.

TSA Precheck logo.
Risk Based Expedited Screening: TSA has implemented TSA Pre✓™, an expedited prescreening initiative for known travelers, active duty service members and airline crewmembers at select airports, and modified procedures for screening passengers 12 and under and 75 and older to reduce, although not eliminate, the need for a pat-down. TSA Pre✓™ is currently available in 32 airports and will be in 35 airports by the end of the year.

TSA Contact Center Logo
TSA Contact Center: The Contact Center hours were recently extended and a representative is now available Monday – Friday, 8 a.m. – 11 p.m. Eastern time; weekends and federal holidays, 9 a.m. – 8 p.m. Eastern time. The TCC can be reached at 866-289-9673. Passengers can also reach out to the TSA Contact Center (TCC) with questions about TSA procedures, upcoming travel or to provide feedback or voice concerns. Unfortunately, we can’t assist with questions related to preparing a turkey or any other delicious holiday staples.

TSA Cares Helpline: Travelers or families of passengers with disabilities and medical conditions may call the TSA Cares helpline toll free 855-787-2227, 72 hours prior to traveling with any questions about screening policies, procedures and what to expect at the security checkpoint. A TSA Cares helpline representative is available during all TSA Contact Center hours.

Smart phone with My TSA app screenshot.
The MyTSA App: Want TSA information anywhere, anytime?  Use the MyTSA app. Among the great features, there’s a “Can I Bring My…” tool. Want to know if you can pack a turducken or a light saber? This is the tool for you. Type in the name of the item you’re curious about and it tells you if the item is permitted or not, along with packing tips. This isn’t a Magic 8 Ball, so please don’t expect it to prophetically answer yes and no questions. A wait time feature is also available. It relies on crowd sourcing, which means the more people who use it, the better. 

TSA Canine Seal 
Expanded Use of Canines: To further enhance explosive detection screening, TSA is expanding its use of canine teams and deploying them throughout the airport environment, including the security checkpoint. These teams are trained to detect trace amounts of explosives that are present in the air.
Wrapped Gifts
 Wrapped gifts are allowed, but not encouraged: Wrapped gifts are allowed, but we recommend waiting until you land. If there’s something in the gift that needs to be inspected, we may have to open it. Our officers try their best not to mangle the gift wrap, but it’s not a guarantee and it also slows down the line for everybody else when we have to do this. We’d rather unwrap the gifts that are under our trees.

3-1-1 (Liquids, Gels & Aerosols): If you’re checking a bag, make things simple by packing liquids in your checked luggage. That way, you don’t have to worry about the 3-1-1 liquids rules.  (If you’re concerned about them leaking, do what I do and put them in a zip-top bag.)  But I know that doesn’t work for everyone if you’re only bringing a carry-on bag. If you have to take liquids in your carry-on, please continue reading… 3-1-1 is a quick way to remember how our liquids policy works. You can read here for more details, but here is the gist: each passenger is allowed to take as many 3.4 ounce or less sized containers that will fit in one sealed clear quart-sized zip-top bag – and one bag per person.   Make sure you take the zip-top bag out of your carry-on prior to sending it through the X-ray.

  • Beverages: Wine, liquor, beer, and all of your favorite beverages are permitted in your checked baggage. You can also bring beverages packaged in 3.4 oz or less bottles in your carry-on bags in the 3-1-1 baggie. Eggnog can be an alternate to fuel depending on who’s mixing it. Sometimes there’s a fine line between a beverage and hazmat. Just sayin’…
  • Makeup: Any liquid makeup cosmetics such as eyeliner, nail polish, liquid foundation, etc. should be placed in the baggie. That goes for perfume as well. Powder makeup is fine.
  • Deodorant: Stick deodorant is not limited to 3.4 oz or less, but gel or spray deodorant is.
  • Some Snow Globes are Permitted Now: TSA now allows small snow globes in carry-on luggage when packed in a passenger's plastic 3-1-1 bag. Snow globes that appear to contain less than 3.4 ounces (approximately tennis-ball size) will be permitted if the entire snow globe, including the base, is able to fit in the same one clear, plastic, quart-sized, re-sealable bag as a passenger’s other liquids.
  • Gel Inserts for shoes are now permitted.
  • Foods: Cakes, pies, bread, donuts, turkeys, etc. are all permitted. Here is a list of items that should be placed in your checked bags or shipped: cranberry sauce, creamy dips and spreads (cheeses, peanut butter, etc.), gift baskets with liquid or gel food items (salsa, jams and salad dressings), gravy, jams, jellies, maple syrup, oils and vinegars, sauces, soups, wine, liquor and beer.

Double Check Your Bag for Guns: Seriously!!! It sounds silly, but if you read our Week in Review posts, you’ll see that our officers find guns every day at checkpoints in the U.S.  A good percentage of those are loaded. Save yourself the hassle of a bag check, a police interview and a potential arrest by making sure you leave your gun at home.

Pat-downs & Body Scanners: A very small percentage of passengers receive pat-downs. To reduce the need for a pat-down, the most important thing you can do is take everything out of your pockets before 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. If you have a hidden medical device (insulin pump, ostomy bag, brace, etc.), please let the officer know.

Man Shaving
Shaving Razors: You can get more info from our blog post on this subject where the pictures will answer all of your questions.

Forgotten or Lost IDs: 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.

Follow us on Twitter for travel tips, blog post announcements, and other useful information. You can find a list of our national and regional twitter accounts here. Also, be sure to print out this handy travel checklist prior to packing. 

Happy Holidays!

If you have a travel related issue or question that needs an immediate answer, you can contact us by clicking here.