TSA to soothe security checks

Published Thursday, April 3, 2008 12:13 PM

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TAMPA — Getting through security at Tampa International Airport to catch a plane should become a little quicker and less stressful in the coming months.

Transportation Security Administration and airport officials are working to streamline how passengers move through checkpoints at the four airsides.

That could mean moving scanning equipment, changing how travelers queue up in lines and stationing more officers where they can direct passengers to move quickly through checkpoints, said Gary Milano, the Tampa Bay area's federal security director. By fall, local travelers should see the first pieces of the TSA program designed to make security screening a less chaotic experience.

A new checkpoint will be tested in May at one terminal of Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport. The idea is that a calmer screening process means better security.

The model, developed in a warehouse at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, uses soothing blue and green lighting, spa-style mood music and officers talking in quiet, friendly tones. Technology plays a big role. One example: a scanner using radio waves that can pick up weapons hidden beneath a passenger's clothes.

A calmer environment helps officers assigned to study passenger behavior pick out people acting suspiciously for searches or questioning, TSA officials say.

Tampa International travelers won't see the light panels or body scanners soon. About 250 X-ray machines that give faster, sharper images and identify explosives will be in airports by July, said TSA spokesman Christopher White. He couldn't say if Tampa will get the machines that soon.

But local travelers should notice a new attitude at checkpoints. All 45,000 TSA officers nationwide will get one-day training on how to "de-escalate" conflicts and direct passengers without barking orders, White said.

"That's the most effective way to foster a calmer environment and better security," he said.

[Last modified Saturday, April 5, 2008 2:16 PM]

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