Airport Security Effectiveness

>>  Friday, August 23, 2013

How confident do you feel when you walk through airport security that they are doing something worthwhile? Do you believe they are protecting you from bombers and hijackers or that it is for show and mainly a waste of time?

I got into a bit of bother once at Dubai third level security.  We had already 'done' security in Birmingham.  We had got off the plane in Dubai and gone through security again that allows you to enter the terminal, despite only having just got off a plane.  Our plane had arrived 2 hours late, we had 20 mins to make our connection for Australia, 15 of  those had already been spent stood in queues.  We ran down the travelators, we flew up escalators and arrived at yet another security scan station.  HWMBO takes forever to empty his pockets, take off his belt, get his laptop out of the case etc and COG and I were willing him to hurry up. The stress hit and COG burst into tears, my face must have shrieked stress and we were 'profiled'.  We were questioned in detail, but amazingly quickly they got the measure that my stress and frustration was with HWMBO and missing flights and we were again running through the airport.

I remember reading this a longtime ago about Israeli airport security, it's message that stuck with me. Security is not about catching the mum trying to 'smuggle' through a pair of tweezers she forgot were in the bottom of a handbag. It's about screening for behaviour before all else.

This doesn't happen in the UK, the security staff are too busy issuing process instructions, stacking boxes and looking at bags on screens to bother really looking at the person.

How effective is all that looking at the bags on the screens?  Recently on our way out of the UK HWMBO forgot to declare his injections.  He had syringes in his bag, sharp needles, liquids, totally unnoticed by the scanners. 

I had chemical ice packs in my hand luggage.  These are fairly large and when 'cracked' the powders turn into a cold liquid. I showed them to security in the UK and showed a doctors note.  The note was actually the only one I could find in the rush of packing, it that was over 2 years old, was addressed to my employer and did not mention the need for medication or ice packs.  Security barely glanced at it and did not separately scan the packs.

On the way home I left the packs in my bag, Greek security didn't even pick up on the fact that there were 2 large packs of chemicals in my handbag.

So, how safe do you feel about the security?  I may be very wrong but over and over it seems to be a futile exercise in making people queue to have a perception of safety.  Where the emphasis is on speeding up the current system, our safety is never going to be improved.  The system is already flawed from what I can see.


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