The aftermath of the tragedy of September 11, 2001, where terrorists attacked the United States of America, redefined country’s security since it forced the airline industry to strengthen and renew its focus on safety. The airport and airline security reform became a fundamental aspect of anti-terrorist efforts. On November 19, 2001, the U.S. passed the Aviation and Transportation Security Act (ATSA,) which sought to standardize pre-flight cargo and passenger screening by federalizing screening services at airports. This law then outlined the creation of a new Transportation Security Administration (TSA) that consolidated security efforts within the transport department. This essay explicates how airport security has changed since 9/11 and provides measures that can be implemented to reduce costs and offer effective solutions.
Before the terrorist attacks, security screeners had been unable to detect possible threats like firearms, knives, and bombs in luggage or passengers. This failure resulted from the constant turnover of employees caused by unattractive benefits and wages together with inadequate training that led to hiring unqualified workers. Additionally, airport access control was not secure prompting the ATSA to authorize various changes within civil aviation security procedures.
After the establishment of the TSA, over 148 federal security directors and 36,000 screeners were hired to cover 429 airports across the country and supervise security operations (Boston Globe Media Partners, 2016). The number rose to 41,820 to meet the increased security demands of expanding airports (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2016). In a bid to reduce the employee turnover, the government tried to raise the wages of the TSA to 40,050 dollars annually (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2016). The Administration also increased hours of training with the aim of ensuring that it hired skilled employees.
The behavior detection security program was introduced involving the use of trained TSA officials to speak to all passengers passing through security checkpoints by asking simple questions to detect any suspicious conduct like threats, bomb jokes, and rowdy behavior. Additionally, the use of the advanced imaging technology software (AIT) installed in millimeter wave machines helps to show the silhouette of the individual on the screen attached to a scanning booth. It improved security checks since hidden items could be detected on passenger’s body. Another improvement is the introduction of the explosives detection technology that uses X-rays to detect bombs in luggage and trace levels of explosive materials. The TSA also allows luggage to have only TSA-recognized and accepted locks that can allow officials to open and relock suspicious baggage. Post-9/11 canine explosive detection was introduced at airport checkpoints to detect bombs by the use of sniffer dogs in case of discovering any unidentified bag (Boston Globe Media Partners, 2016).
Nowadays, the airlines practice the usage of closed-circuit video surveillance software that has advanced cameras assisting TSA officials in capturing every move of passengers in the airport. It also contains face recognition to help recognize suspects by comparing pictures with the ones contained in government databases, thereby enabling security officers to react fast and prevent tragic events. Crewmember screening systems have also come up to screen, identify, and verify pilots and other crewmembers (Homeland Security, 2015)
The airlines security board has also tightened regulations concerning the carrying of liquid contents on board. After extensive research and testing, the TSA stated that passengers could only carry small quantities of aerosols, gels, and liquids and that all of them must declare large amounts of fluids before inspection at checkpoints. The 3-1-1 policy was introduced in 2006 to limit the volume of liquids carried. One cannot use containers larger than 3.4oz for such substances. All containers must be placed within a 1qt sealed and transparent plastic bag, and every passenger can carry only one such item. Exemptions include infant nourishment and medications (Transportation Security Administration, n.d.a).
Initially, there had been no shoe screening, but after a bombing incident in 2002, the U.S. introduced mandatory requirements for passengers in the airline to remove shoes for inspection before boarding the flight. Additionally, some rules were aimed to consider the needs of passengers with medical conditions and disabilities preventing them from removing their shoes. They are required to alert the security personnel to extra screening that involves physical and visual inspection. The TSA also permits those assisting persons with medical conditions to go past checkpoints after receiving pass tickets. Moreover, those wearing religious clothing or head garments during the screening process are directed to additional screening areas to check if their attire contains any prohibited and dangerous materials. Persons with body piercings also undergo additional screening and may be requested to remove these items before search (Transportatin Security Administration, n.d.b).
Strict identification requirements also appeared after September 11. Persons who are 18 years and above need to provide genuine identity proof to go past checkpoints and board flights. Homeland security also uses stringent measures to prevent individuals from entering waiting premises in airports without ID cards and flight tickets. Other necessary documents include the U.S. passport, DHS-designated driver’s license, or other identity cards issued by foreign nations (Transportation Security Administration, n.d.b).
Before the attacks, the U.S. airlines had permitted passengers to carry knives with blades up to 100 mm long (4 inches). However, the terrorists used box-cutter knives since security allowed them to pass with such items. Since then, the Federal Aviation Administration forbids any knife or sharp object on board and in secured airport areas. Other prohibited items include fireworks, fuel, lighter fluid, hand grenades, and dynamite among others (Transportation Security Administration, n.d.b).
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The terrorist attacks also led to some modifications within the aircraft. Cockpit doors are fortified and remain closed during flights to avoid easy access from the cabin. The flight crew and pilots now observe the airplane from recording devices and monitors. The transportation department also requires all planes to be equipped with emergency notification systems to enable communication with the airport and national emergency services (Villemez, 2011). Additionally, all airports are secured areas with fences that stop unauthorized entry into staging points and runways. Cars cannot be left unattended within 300 yards from terminals (Villemez, 2011).
Before the 9/11 bombing, the Homeland Security Department had used a one-size-fits-all security strategy, which was changed to a risk-based approach. Airports should move to more intelligent-driven, risk-based screening procedures like the use of biometrics to reduce costs of security and offer proper solutions. Biometrics incorporates systems and technologies that contain face, iris, voice, and fingerprint recognition to help accurately verify and validate identities of individuals and stop terrorism (Cordell, 2016). The implementation of these technologies in airports will make security processes automated with the potential of reducing the staff and increasing airport revenues thanks to a faster flow of passengers at checkpoints. Overall, it will become a cost-effective way of improving airport security (Iritech, Inc., 2016).
Additionally, the TSA should aim to increase the time required for training its officials. This measure will lead to comprehensive training and consequently hiring more skilled employees improving airport security. Increasing wages and salaries of employees will boost their morale and reduce the employee turnover cutting costs of training.
Implementing strict laws will address vulnerabilities and enhance preparedness to mitigate threats in airports. They should also offer harsh penalties to those found guilty of terrorist activities, for example, death sentences to help discourage these attacks at airports and reduce costs since few security officials will be employed (Laing, 2015). Finally, creating awareness at airports through passenger education can also assist in bettering airport security. This process can include television advertisements on how to detect suspects and other media campaigns aimed at educating the public.
In conclusion, the TSA has helped to revolutionize airport security in the USA. Before the 9/11 attacks, airport rules had been not strict, and this created loopholes that led to terrorism. The TSA implemented changes that improved airport security to a great extent. Such include increasing the number of TSA officials serving at airport terminals, using advanced imaging technology, limiting the quantity of liquids, shoe screening, strict ID requirements, and prohibiting items that had been allowed before the attacks. These measures came a long way in enhancing airport security. Strategies that can help reduce security costs and offer solutions to the problem include measures like the use of biometrics, public education, and strict laws.
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