Adjusting to Terrorism at Airports

I have chosen to write about another potential terrorist threat in the making. I am talking about the United States Airports. This is not just at a few select airports this is happening in our backyards. I was recently watching a report on CNN about the weak security surrounding Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, and the cargo which goes on board with passengers. Four years after 9/11, it is estimated that millions of tons of cargo is loaded into the bottom of aircrafts while unsuspecting passengers remain vulnerable. (CNN.Com)

The passengers who have paid for airline tickets have their luggage screened and carefully inspected. However, the shippers who use the airline do not have their cargo inspected. While it may be screened with a program called the “known shipper program”, this doesn’t make it any safer. The known shipper program allows over 400,000 companies certify that their cargo is safe to avoid any inspections. However from the sounds of the security they don’t actually need to be members to have their cargo remain untouched. The system is flawed because it is based upon the assumption that the shipper has certified that their cargo is safe. Then the airline assumes that the cargo is safe, and again it comes down to assumptions.

The first issue that would need to be addressed would be the fact that the security gates are left open and unattended. This is an easy access for people to gain access onto the plane without being noticed. The camera man and journalist from CNN were walking around the open and unsecured area without anyone stopping them to ask what they were doing. If it is this easy for a common person off the street without terrorists intentions, imagine if a terrorist can make it into this poorly secured area.

Changes must be implemented in this area to prevent it from being such an easy target. There needs to be atleast one security guard whom monitor the activity of the gates and who is coming in, and who is leaving. This should apply to all shipments entering and leaving the facility as well. While it isn’t possible for only one security guard to inspect all of the cargo himself/herself, as they should be focused on the security of the gates. It is very apparent that there would need to be additional help available. New people could be hired just to inspect the safety of the cargo. The airport maintains that it screens the cargo, but does not open anything to inspect. It seems to be somewhat unreasonable to believe that all of the cargo could be thoroughly inspected before shipping. It would cause serious delays and cost thousands of dollars to the businesses and the airport.

The first step of changes I would propose would be to hire more security guards, or police officers to monitor the activities of the area. I would also propose that more people be hired and trained to inspect the cargo. While not all of the cargo would be able to be inspected it would be a start in ensuring that all efforts were taken to ensure the safety of the passengers aboard.

The next step I would propose would be to never leave unattended cargo containers or unsecured trucks, but especially opened gates which are just an invitation for trouble. The key here is common sense measures, not big expensive changes. This would of course entail hiring more people to make sure that the facility and the cargo entering the plane was safe.
I cannot give the approximate costs of hiring more people but I can give the costs for more common sense, which would be free! There may need to be a short training seminar for the employees who are already employed at the airport. This could entail safety measures such as not leaving the gates open, not leaving cargo unattended and out in the open, as well as unattended vehicles which are not locked.

However the money spent on tightening the security at the airport would ease the minds of the public as well as the consumers who fly on a regular basis. This may also decrease the fines that the airlines may face if they do not change their ways. This is not a new issue as it has been ordered by congress that the airline was to tighten up the security by mid August of 2005. There are also laws which will be in place by the fall to help implement further security. Overall there are people’s lives at risk and it is imperative that changes be made.

Reference
Griffin, D., and Johnston, K. (2005) CNN probe finds weak link in air security Retrieved August 29, 2005 from http://www.cnn.com/2005/US/08/10/air.cargo.safety/

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