February 16, 2009

February 16, 2009
Navigating Airport Security

Welcome to another day in my life. I hope you are having a great start to your week.

The day started off fairly cool with temperatures in the high 40s and eventually heated up to the 60s after the sun started shining. All in all, it was a perfect day for what I like and it made for a beautiful day.

As most of you know I recently returned from another trip to Washington DC. One of the worst parts about having to fly is going through airport security without losing your liquids or your mind. So I decided to write today's blog about it.

You are busted, buddy. Hand over the barbecue sauce. Surrender the salsa. Hold the mayo. Sounds funny, but in airport security inspection lines, such phrases are not uncommon. According to officers of the Transportation Security Administration, you would be surprised how many people try to smuggle sauce on board only to lose their liquids when they get in line.

Most travelers know the "3-1-1" rule: Passengers can carry liquids in three ounce bottles or less (by volume) if these are placed in a one quart sized clear plastic zip top bag, placed separately in a bin; one per passenger. Still, some have questions about that and other airport security restrictions.

With airlines' charging for checked baggage, more travelers are carrying all their luggage on board, so security lines are longer, and the hassle seems to be multiplying. To learn how to make security move faster, we turned for advice to Officer Dan Parker, assistant federal security director for screening for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Rule of thumb: If you can pour it, spread it, or smear it, you are better off leaving it at home.

When in doubt, take it out. You may know that computer laptops and video cameras have to be removed from their cases to go through screening, but did you know that breathing machines, video game consoles, DVD players and many other electronic devices need to be taken from their cases, too?

Liquid medications. Any liquid or gel that may be reasonably expected to be for medical use (even those in large bottles) are allowed as carry ons, prescription or not; however, they will hold up the line as officers are required to carefully test the contents of each bottle. So consider packing gel caps or tablets instead, and if you have to carry liquid medicines, have them outside your bag and ready to show the officers when you enter the screening area.

No snow globe zone. Snow globes and any other toys or bra or shoe inserts containing water or gel as a component can be confiscated. "We give away thousands of snow globes, along with everything else we confiscate, to a company that sells them to raise money for charities," says Officer Parker.

Sole side down. Place your shoes in the bin this way. It facilitates the scanning process.

Size matters. Do not bring a big baggie if you carry on liquids. Only one quart sized bag is allowed in order to limit the number of 3 ounce bottles per passenger.

Big girls do not cry, and you should not either. Crying, acting distraught, distracted or nervous -- these things can flag you with airport behavior detection agents. Once referred to as bereavement assistance officers, these agents are specially trained to spot suspicious behavior. Besides detaining dubious characters, they often are the first to nab drug traffickers and those smuggling items that are not allowed.

Do not be sneaky with snakes… or any other animals. You ca not conceal critters in your carry ons, so come clean about your pets. "We found once found a live snake hidden in a pillowcase," recalls Parker.

Gun Control. "We probably find 20 handguns a week, nationwide," says Parker. "Check with your airline or travel agent to see if firearms are permitted in checked baggage." Limitations and fees may apply, so it is best to leave weapons at home. "Once a lady here tried to come through with brass knuckles. She cried like a baby when we made her give them up and said they were a family heirloom," recalls Parker. "We have seen it all."

So please remember the above rule and hopefully your next trip through airport security will be a smooth and fast one.

Wishing you health, hope and happiness.

big bear hug,

Daddy Dab