Over the past fifteen years, it’s become a nightmare to pass through airport security when we travel for business or pleasure.
We must run ever-changing gauntlets of security protocols to get to and from our planes.
Many of the so-called security improvements have been developed as a response to the methods and tactics used in past attacks.
These knee-jerk protocols do little or nothing to prevent future attacks because they don’t take into account how well criminals and terrorists learn from the past and adapt for the future.
You might recall Richard Reid. He was labeled the “shoe bomber” in 2001 because he stuffed explosives in his soles and tried to detonate them while on an American Airlines flight from Paris to Miami.
His infamous attempt failed. But to this day in the U.S., we still have to remove our shoes for airport security screenings before we board a commercial aircraft.
This has created longer, slower lines, which have become even worse bottlenecks with the addition of metal detectors, explosives detectors, bomb-sniffing dogs, suitcase searches, random body searches and other cumbersome protocols.
The longer lines have created new targets for terrorists by causing a “paralysis” in the security systems’ checks and balances. We have essentially “herded” people into enclosed areas where they are essentially sitting ducks for slashers, suicide bombers and active shooters.
In the March Brussels attacks, the terrorist cell coordinated several assaults that crippled two major transportation hubs — the airport and a metro station.
As the world watched in horror, the world’s security professionals were already scrambling to find ways to strengthen their local transportation hubs.
But many of their plans put people in real danger by ushering passengers into long, slow-moving lines that back up and trap them like cattle in slaughter pens.
So how can travelers better protect themselves with the advent of heightened security measures?
As business and recreational travelers, we can’t buck the system either by breaking from the herd or by racing through the security checkpoints. What we can do though is focus our energies in several key areas:
- Improve situational awareness: Long before you arrive at the airport, you should do some research about its layout. Establish a baseline of the security environment, and spend a little while mapping out your movements through the airport.If you’ve never been to the airport before, you can glean quite a bit of information about it online by simply letting your fingers do the walking on the computer keys!Be sure to identify entrances, exits, bathrooms and security clearing areas, which can become choke points and “soft targets” for would-be mass killers. Look for places where you can take cover or make a break for it because the situation can turn dangerous before you know it.As you move about remember to stay in condition YELLOW, a relaxed state of alertness so that if danger rears its ugly head, you can quickly switch from relaxed awareness to fight-or-flight if necessary.
Lastly remember if you are traveling with family or friends, make sure that everyone knows what the emergency plan is. Include several potential rallying points where everyone would meet-up in case people get separated.
- Be flexible: We don’t know what to expect at the airport, so we need to adopt a mindset of adaptation and flexibility. This may mean not waiting till the last minute to arrive.Plan to allot enough time so you don’t have to rush and so you can accommodate foreseeable and unforeseen variables. For example, once you arrive at a large airport, you may need to take a bus or train to get to your terminal.Make sure that all your things are packed correctly and that you have everything you need both inside and outside of your bags. You can get stalled for a long time if you have to unpack your giant Samsonite to recover your visa, passport or plane ticket.
- Be better prepared: You want to move as swiftly and efficiently as you can through the security check points — because you want to get out of the danger zone as quickly as possible.So have all your documents in one place whenever possible. That means all passports, driver’s licenses, tickets, gate passes and other forms of I.D. Keep them in your hand or in an I.D. carrier so that you don’t have to stop and waste time looking for things. If you are traveling internationally, make sure that your passports are up-to-date and you have all necessary visas.Be certain you obey all the rules for the size and weight of luggage and carry-ons, and especially obey restrictions about what is allowed or not allowed on the plane. For example, during the week of August 12-18, 2016, the TSA confiscated 81 firearms! And as if that wasn’t bad enough, 70 of those guns were loaded!With all that has happened and even before 911, I believe any sane person would know that firearms are prohibited in carry-on bags and pose a huge security threat … so 81 people just forgot? Like, oops I’m sorry I didn’t remember that I put a loaded gun in my bag that I was going to carry on the plane?
Being better prepared can serve both you and your fellow travelers by speeding up lines and making things run more efficiently, which leaves you less exposed
Until next time, stay alert, check your six, put your back against the wall and stay safe!