SALT LAKE CITY--Training airport security through computer simulations of bomb threats is a good initial approach, but giving them hands-on training and experience better prepares them to understand the dangers of even the smallest explosives, officials with the Salt Lake City International Airport said.
The airport, in conjunction with the Transportation Security Administration, are encouraging the airport police department, TSA employees and other airline personnel to take part in a non-mandatory course that trains them to better recognize improvised explosive devices and how to disengage explosives.
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Students receive 30 minutes of classroom familiarization, an hour of hands-on training and an hour of training in the effects of shoe bombs, binder bombs and liquid explosives.
"We realized in TSA that we had a real deficiency in the training that we give our screeners for personnel and baggage screening," said Ernie Kiehn, TSA bomb appraisal officer. "They go through myriad class room training, but they never actually see the devices function. This is an attempt to close the training loop."
The agencies launched the course in the summer of 2007 with nearly 500 Salt Lake City International airport officers and TSA employees participating during a three-month class cycle. Stephen Marlovits, Salt Lake City International Airport police chief, said he hopes that number will increase this summer.
The Utah Police Officer Training and Standards Board will also allow police officers to use the course hours toward the 40-hours of annual state certification classes, Marlovits said.
Southwest Airlines has also asked Marlovits if it can send six security officers to take the course.
"I think it's invaluable for security and police personnel," Marlovits said. "We don't use any more than three ounces of explosives during training, but that can cause a lot of damage. Students need to see that so they understand how serious even the slightest IED can be."
The new course will begin in June and Marlovits might require it as part of orientation for new airport police hires and as continuing education for seasoned officers.
"It teaches new hires what they are dealing with and it reminds our folks not to become complacent," he said.
The operating costs of the course are nearly $4,000 of which TSA pays for from its discretionary training budget.