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Saturday, July 13, 2024

New Automated Screening Lanes with CT Scanners at BWI Airport

The summer travel period has arrived in full force and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is prepared for the highest passenger volumes that the agency has ever seen at airport security checkpoints nationwide during this summer’s travel season, which began Memorial Day weekend and runs through Labor Day. In fact, during the course of the past five weeks, TSA has seen several days make it into the top 10 busiest days in TSA’s 22-year history—including the top three days ever.

TSA officials at Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI) also expect it to be extremely busy and the agency has been working in close coordination with airport, airline and travel partners to ensure that we are ready for this summer’s increased travel volumes.

On a typical day, TSA screens 27,000 people at the airport checkpoints, but since mid-May, TSA officers at BWI have been screening closer to 33,000 people per day. The busiest times of the day at BWI checkpoints are from 4 to 8 a.m. and from 3 to 7 p.m. Those are the peak hours when the most people are all looking to get through checkpoints to get to their gates around the same time.

“My advice to travelers is to get to the airport early because it will be crowded here and at other airports across the country,” said Christopher Murgia, TSA’s Federal Security Director for Maryland. “By early, I encourage you to arrive at least two hours in advance of your departure time. It will take you longer to find an available parking spot and you can expect to see a line at your airline check-in counter. And that’s before you head to the checkpoint.”

TSA’s second piece of advice is to “know before you go.” By that “I mean to know the contents of your carry-on bag,” Murgia says. “It’s best to begin packing for travel with an empty bag, because that way travelers are less likely to see their carry-on bag trigger an alarm. If you start with an empty bag, you know with certainty that you do not have anything prohibited inside.”

“If you have not traveled recently, we want you to be aware of new checkpoint technology units that we have installed here in time for the busy summer travel period,” Murgia added.

TSA has installed automated screening lanes (ASLs) with computed tomography (CT) scanners at the airport checkpoints to enhance security efficiency and decrease the amount of time travelers spend in the security screening process. Installation of the lanes began in late spring.

“We are always looking to incorporate innovative technology throughout the terminal to improve the passenger experience while improving upon our security posture,” Murgia said. “The new screening lanes offer enhanced security as well as an expedited screening experience.”

Automated screening lane with a computed tomography scanner TSA photo

The CT scanners provide a clear 3-D image of the contents of a traveler’s carry-on bag. Using a touch-screen monitor, TSA officers can rotate the image to get a more complete view of what is inside each bag. In doing so, TSA officers are able to better identify items inside a bag, which results in fewer bags needing to be pulled aside and opened. The 3-D images also enable TSA to better and more quickly identify any threat items that might be contained in carry-on bags.

The ASLs include several new features designed to improve the screening process for travelers going through the security checkpoint including:

  • Four divesting countertops per lane designed specifically to enable up to four passengers to place their items in bins simultaneously;
  • Automated and powered conveyor rollers that move bins into the X-ray machine tunnel and then feed the bins back to the front of the security checkpoint;
  • Automatic diversion of any carry-on bag that may contain a prohibited item to a secure conveyor belt, which allows other bins containing other travelers’ belongings to continue through the screening process uninterrupted;
  • Bins that are 25 percent larger than a typical bin and are able to hold a carry-on suitcase;
  • Unique Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags on each bin, which provides additional accountability of a traveler’s carry-on property as they move throughout the security screening process;
  • Cameras that capture digital images of the contents of each bin and are linked side-by-side to the X-ray image of a carry-on bag’s contents to easily match a bag to its X-ray image.

TSA continues to expand the number of automated screening lanes in use at airports across the country. To date, TSA has overseen installation of 205 automated screening lanes in security checkpoints at airports nationwide.

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Homeland Security Today
The Government Technology & Services Coalition's Homeland Security Today (HSToday) is the premier news and information resource for the homeland security community, dedicated to elevating the discussions and insights that can support a safe and secure nation. A non-profit magazine and media platform, HSToday provides readers with the whole story, placing facts and comments in context to inform debate and drive realistic solutions to some of the nation’s most vexing security challenges.
Homeland Security Today
Homeland Security Todayhttp://www.hstoday.us
The Government Technology & Services Coalition's Homeland Security Today (HSToday) is the premier news and information resource for the homeland security community, dedicated to elevating the discussions and insights that can support a safe and secure nation. A non-profit magazine and media platform, HSToday provides readers with the whole story, placing facts and comments in context to inform debate and drive realistic solutions to some of the nation’s most vexing security challenges.

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