By Brooke McIlvain
Enhanced security measures at Salt Lake International Airport have travelers and airport officials on high alert in preparation for the fast-approaching presidential election.
Inbound and outbound travelers should plan on more time for flights as screening policies have been tightened. New measures include random vehicle inspections on airport property, a more strongly enforced rule prohibiting cars from parking and idling at the terminal curb, a continuous flow of random secondary security screenings of passengers after initial checkpoints and a more visible presence of law enforcement officers and bomb-sniffing dogs.
In 2001 President Bush signed a security act into law, which established a new Transportation Security Administration among other things. This Act established a series of challenging but critically important milestones toward achieving a secure air travel system, according to TSA”s Web site. To aid the SLC International Airport the TSA appointed Earl Morris, federal security director, about three years ago.
“These measures are being put in place simply because we want to step it up a little bit more than where we”ve been in the past,” Morris said. “It”s a continuous process because the more sophisticated we become, the more sophisticated some of our enemies become.”
Sunday the government announced increased anti-terrorism precautions for financial centers on the East Coast. These are not related to the airport”s security upgrades, but will have the airport well trained before traffic increases surrounding the election.
As one of the nation”s 25 busiest hubs, 772 flights are scheduled daily out of Salt Lake City International Airport and nationwide more than 200 million Americans are expected to take to the air this summer. Although there has never been a significant security breach at the airport, representatives feel a responsibility to keep Utahns and its visitors safe.
There are set standards each airport must comply with, such as locked cockpit doors and baggage x-ray machinery, as well as the suggested measures that SLC has chosen to implement at this time. TSA officials are hesitant to say how much tighter security will go as the election draws closer.
On a national level, the TSA has launched a Registered Travelers Pilot Program to help expedite frequent fliers at George Bush Intercontinental (Houston) Airport, with Boston Logan International and Ronald Reagan Washington National to follow by the end of August. For more information on how to pack and dress to get through airport screening more efficiently, go to TSA”s Web site at www.tsa.gov.