The Yin and Yang of Airport Security

Paul Bowers
Published in: 

Paul Bowers

As a runner, experience has taught me that compensating for one part of my body generally causes problems in another. Running to protect a sore ankle, for instance, can lead to knee or hip problems. Why? Because everything is connected. When you change the balance in one area, it stresses another.

The same is true for other types of bodies and systems. And airport security is no exception.

With terrorists constantly changing their tactics, the need to continually update screening technology, procedures and systems seems obvious. But how we change them makes all the difference in the world. It can make everyone safer or devastate our entire airport system.

Take procedures in Canada after the failed underwear bomb attack as an example. Passengers traveling to the United States from Canada have seen security wait times go through the roof. Requirements to hand search all carry-on items slowed the pace to a crawl. The amount of security staff needed to handle the volume of traffic increased significantly.

Dramatically restricting carry-on baggage diverted more items into airports' checked baggage systems. Balance suffered when appropriate staffing and equipment weren't on hand to handle the extra volume. Airports, in effect, incurred terrible backaches trying to protect their ankles.

The Yin and Yang of airport security is that there needs to be balance. And you can't have balance unless all the stakeholders (airports, airlines, security agencies, etc.) have the same goals and are willing to work within the framework of one overall body.

Impossible, you say? We've already seen some promising signs. In February, I attended a demo of Rapiscan screening equipment. After gathering input from TSA and airports, the manufacturer met with architects and engineers, who were working to understand how the new equipment works and how to design systems to make it work better. After all, a machine that scans a thousand bags an hour is no good if an airport or TSA isn't set up to process that kind of volume.

Collaboration, balance or Yin and Yang - whatever you call it, we need more of it.



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