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The challenge of screening passengers.

AN IMPORTANT PART OF daily security at all airports is passenger screening. The main segment of screening takes place at security checkpoints, where individuals must pass through a metal detector. All types of travelers from all walks of life go through these areas. The checkpoints are staffed by security personnel who are trained to use reason and discretion in the screening process, giving no more attention to an individual than is necessary to enhance the safety of each flight.

The primary purpose of screening is to ensure that passengers are not carrying or concealing weapons or dangerous objects. And, as with every aspect of the screening process, good judgment on behalf of the screener is required to know what to question and what to let pass by.

For proper screening, each passenger must walk through the metal detector, sometimes emptying out his or her pockets or being scanned with hand-held scanners.

A typical able-bodied individual who encounters a checkpoint usually walks away from the screening experience a little worse for wear.

A daily dilemma for passenger screeners is how to properly screen individuals who are temporarily or permanently disabled without causing unnecessary attention to them or their disability yet at the same time giving them the same screening as is given an individual who is able bodied.

This remains a topic of complaint from both individuals who are disabled as well as others who witness the screening process in action.

Complaints filed with the air carriers and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) usually center around what witnesses perceive as lax security screening procedures.

Passengers often ask how the screener knows that the person being screened is actually disabled. In other words, how does the screener know the disability is not a ruse? One frequently asked question is: How does a screener know that a metal brace that the individual who is seemingly disabled states has set off the alarm is not actually concealing a weapon or illegal drugs?

Obviously, the screening process requires professionalism and discretion. When dealing with a passenger who is disabled, screeners must take care not to diminish the effectiveness of the screening process, while at the same time not bringing undue embarrassment to die individual because of his or her disability.

In light of this fact, passenger screeners all receive mandatory training, a portion of which focuses on screening individuals who are disabled.

Each air carrier is responsible for providing the necessary screener training; the FAA does not conduct the training itself.

This article focuses on the challenges preboarding screeners face in screening individuals who are temporarily or permanently disabled. Screening requires tact, professionalism, discretion, and adherence to screening rules in order to safeguard the passengers and the aviation industry as a whole. An individual who is disabled is equally capable of causing damage to the industry as an individual who is able bodied.

CHECKPOINT SCREENERS ARE RESPONSIBLE for evaluating a variety of elements when an individual who is disabled attempts to pass through a metal detector. For example, when a person approaches the preboarding passenger security checkpoint in a wheelchair, the screener must first question one obvious element: Does the wheelchair belong to the airport or does it belong to the user?

When the wheelchair belongs to the airport or air carrier, the chair is readily identifiable. If the person is in a borrowed chair, the screener should ask the individual if he or she can walk through the metal detector without assistance.

This may seem like an odd request since the person is in a wheelchair, but just because an individual is in a wheelchair does not mean he or she is confined to it. The individual may have walked from a car or bus, which delivered him or her to the airport, to the wheelchair. In most cases, the individual agrees to walk through the metal detector device.

When an individual cannot walk through the detector, the person doing the screening must take extra care to ensure that a thorough screening is accomplished. This is normally done using a combination of hand-held metal detection devices and a physical search. The individual being screened should not have access to any object or person until the screening process is completed.

Managing individuals who are visually impaired through the screening process also presents a situation that requires discretion and professionalism. The screener, again, should not draw undue attention to or embarrass the person, while guiding the individual to the opening of the metal detector.

It is the individuals who seem only temporarily disabled or incapacitated--broken arms or legs, for example--that tax the professionalism of even the most efficient screeners. While the primary purpose of the screening process is to detect deadly or dangerous weapons, the dignity of each individual must be honored throughout the process.

Once again, if the individual is able to walk through the metal detector, he or she should be asked to do so. If the individual sets off the alarm device, then it is necessary to identify what caused the alarm.

Extenuating circumstances may complicate the screening process--for example, when an individual arrives at the security checkpoint with metal crutches.

A quick solution to this screening problem is to have a set of wooden crutches available for use while the metal crutches are x-rayed. If substitute crutches are unavailable, the individual should be asked to sit down in an isolated area, where he or she can be kept away from persons who have successfully undergone screening.

Also, the individual should not be allowed to possess any property that has already been screened or be able to transfer any property from his or her person until after receiving a complete physical inspection.

After it is determined that the crutches are harmless, the next concern is the individual, who must be thoroughly screened to ensure that he or she is not concealing any weapons. This screening is best conducted with a hand-held metal detector.

If the individual has a cast that sets off the alarm, that cast must also be inspected. If it is a soft cast that sets off the alarms, can it be removed temporarily by the passsenger to review the interior area?

In all cases, when a cast is involved, and the screener cannot identify what causes the alarm, the individual cannot be allowed to proceed. An airline official should be notified of the diffi-culty. This official should decide whether the individual should proceed based on the information the screener provides.

Airlines can help prevent some of the problems security screeners encounter in screening individuals who are disabled by educating people about the passenger screening process through travel publications and the travel industry.

The airline industry can further assist in the process by providing additional training to security personnel and testing established procedures.

People should be more aware of the screening methods for all passengers--able-bodied and disabled, and in doing so, assist in strengthening these methods. The FAA Civil Aviation Security Division also welcomes die opportunity to assist the airlines in the mutual goal of a better passenger screening process.

Don Libby is a senior special agent with the FAA's Security Division in the Great Lakes Regional Office in Des Plaines, IL. Libby is an associate instructor for the US Department of Transportation Safety Institute in Oklahoma City, OK, and has taught security-related subjects to local, state, federal, as well as international audiences. Libby is on the National Transportation Committee in Chicago and a member of the ASIS Standing Committee on Transportation.
COPYRIGHT 1992 American Society for Industrial Security
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Transportation: Screening
Author:Libby, Don
Publication:Security Management
Date:Jun 1, 1992
Previous Article:Can we keep up with the changing times?
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