Make us your home page
Instagram

Get ready to get swabbed for explosives testing at TIA

TAMPA — As the airport security dance goes, the latest step didn't bother T.J. Kerner.

A federal officer rubbed the cotton strip over his palms and fingers as Kerner waited in a security screening line at Tampa International Airport on Monday. In less than a minute, a device that looks like a computer printer swallowed the swab and reported his hands were free of any bomb residue.

"It didn't slow down the line and was fairly convenient,'' said the 31-year-old Las Vegas resident. "If it's good for security, I'm fine with it.''

The technology isn't new. But Transportation Security Administration officers now are patrolling airports with the portable devices to randomly check passengers and their carry-ons for traces of explosives. They'll mostly test travelers waiting at airport gates or in regular security screening lines.

"The TSA has many layers of security, and we're introducing another layer,'' said spokeswoman Sari Koshetz.

Soon after the attempted Christmas Day plot to bomb a U.S.-bound flight, the TSA tried the roaming tests at five airports, including Orlando International. Suspect Farouk Abdulmutallab passed through a metal detector in an Amsterdam airport, but metal detectors can't pick up the powdered explosives that officials say were sewn inside his underwear.

Last month, the TSA announced plans to roll out the roving bomb detectors nationwide. The program should be in all U.S. airports by next week.

Explosive trace detectors were an early tool for the fledgling TSA months after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The early machines were bulky and anchored at airport security checkpoints. Newer models are the size of a briefcase. The TSA plans to spend $40 million next year for 800 new detectors, all highly sensitive to a wide range of chemicals.

At Tampa International, TSA officers roll the explosive detectors on carts or perch them on tables. Besides testing travelers at security lines and gates, they could randomly select people in any "sterile'' areas past security checkpoints, Koshetz said.

On its blog (tsa.gov/blog), the TSA acknowledges that people who are in contact with "accelerants and munitions'' — members of the military, firefighters, police and sport shooters — could set off alarms.

"No matter how much of an expert you are at traveling, it's not guaranteed that you won't be stopped for additional screening of some sort,'' says the blog. The agency says it has long-standing procedures to deal with bad guys while clearing those who aren't a threat.

TSA officials don't talk about what specific materials the detectors flag as dangerous. It's been reported that passengers who recently took nitroglycerin heart medicine can set off the detectors.

"Just be aware of what you've been doing before coming to the airport,'' Koshetz said.

Travelers flagged by the detectors must go through secondary screening, such as a pat-down search or scanning by a machine that can identify weapons beneath clothing. People who refuse the trace explosive test can be kept from flying.

Steve Huettel can be reached at huettel@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3384.

Get ready to get swabbed for explosives testing at TIA 03/01/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 2, 2010 10:56am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. New owners take over downtown St. Petersburg's Hofbräuhaus

    Retail

    ST. PETERSBURG — The downtown German beer-hall Hofbräuhaus St. Petersburg has been bought by a partnership led by former Checkers Drive-In Restaurants president Keith Sirois.

    The Hofbrauhaus, St. Petersburg, located in the former historic Tramor Cafeteria, St. Petersburg, is under new ownership.
[SCOTT KEELER  |  TIMES]

  2. Boho Hunter will target fashions in Hyde Park

    Business

    Boho Hunter, a boutique based in Miami's Wynwood District, will expand into Tampa with its very first franchise.

    Palma Canaria bags will be among the featured items at Boho Hunter when it opens in October. Photo courtesy of Boho Hunter.
  3. Gallery now bringing useful art to Hyde Park customers

    Business

    HYDE PARK — In 1998, Mike and Sue Shapiro opened a gallery in St. Petersburg along Central Ave., with a majority of the space dedicated to Sue's clay studio.

     As Sue Shapiro continued to work on her pottery in St. Petersburg, her retail space grew and her studio shrunk. Now Shapiro's is bringing wares like these to Hyde Park Village. Photo courtesy of Shapiro's.
  4. Appointments at Raymond James Bank and Saint Leo University highlight this week's Tampa Bay business Movers & Shakers

    Business

    Banking

    Raymond James Bank has hired Grace Jackson to serve as executive vice president and chief operating officer. Jackson will oversee all of Raymond James Bank's operational business elements, risk management and strategic planning functions. Kackson joins Raymond James Bank after senior …

    Raymond James Bank has hired Grace Jackson to serve as executive vice president and chief operating officer. [Company handout]
  5. Cooking passion spurs owner to pull open AJ's Kitchen Drawer

    Business

    TAMPA — After graduating from the University of Tampa in May 2016, AJ Albrecht spent four months traveling around Southeast Asia and Australia.

    AJs Kitchen Drawer offers a wide variety of unique kitchenware items, such as handcrafted knives and wooden items, as well as local gourmet products. Photo by Danielle Hauser