New, faster airport security system debuts in Mississippi

By Elizabeth Vowell – email

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Security just got a boost at the Gulfport-Biloxi airport. TSA debuted the state's first Rapid Scan Advanced Imaging Technology at their security checkpoint.

"What this technology does is increase our security here and it allows for our passengers to be screened and have less pat-downs and are able to provide an additional layer of security here at Gulfport," TSA Federal Security Director David Wynn said.

According to TSA, the device built in Ocean Springs uses low level X-rays to scan passengers and detect metallic and non metallic objects that might pose a threat. While some people worry the machine may expose people to radiation, TSA says the exposure is the same as spending 2 minutes on an airplane.

Passengers using the machine simply step in, hold their hands above their head, and step out. The machine's scan goes into a monitor held in a separate, isolated room. An officer trained to analyze the picture then gives the ok for the passenger to continue.

"What we've found is that it takes about 20 seconds for a passenger to be screened as opposed to two-four minutes using the traditional pat down method," Wynn said.

TSA also ensures the machine won't invade anyone's privacy. Filters are in place to blur the face and make sure the passenger can't be identified in any way.

Two officers operate the machine: one stands with the passenger and one analyzing the scan. According to Wynn, the officer on the outside never sees the scan and the officer watching the monitor never sees the passenger. However, the scanning machine is not mandatory.

"If a passenger wants to opt out then that passenger will go through the normal screening alternative screening process which includes a full body pat down," Wynn said.

More than 400 of these machines are being distributed to airports throughout the country and TSA hopes the scanners might one day replace the traditional pat-down.

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