TSA officials explain how checked bags are screened - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

TSA officials explain how checked bags are screened

TSA security checkpoint at Huntsville International Airport (Source: WAFF) TSA security checkpoint at Huntsville International Airport (Source: WAFF)
TSA security checkpoint at Huntsville International Airport (Source: WAFF) TSA security checkpoint at Huntsville International Airport (Source: WAFF)
HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) -

Security is on the minds of most air travelers nowadays, and we got an inside look at the Huntsville International Airport about how the Transportation Security Administration screens your checked bag and what they're looking for when you drop them off at the counter.

Through the mystic portal, your bags arrive at the security checkpoint at a state-of-the-art scanner that acts almost like a CT scanner used by doctors. TSA Supervisor Rhonda Wells said they scan about 1,000 bags a day at the Huntsville airport.

“If a machine deems that a bag has something dense enough to be an explosive trait, then it would be sent to us as far as to look at the bag," said Wells. “Once we look at the image, we determine whether or not we have to go in the bag.”

The TSA says they only have to open up and inspect a small percentage of the checked bags they scan.

“A lot of people say it's just my shampoo, it's just my whatever. However, we have to verify that it is just the shampoo,” said Wells.“Because things can be removed from bottles and different things can happen, so we just need to be sure it’s nothing dangerous.”

Wells said officers are trained and retrained constantly throughout the year.

“Supervisors from headquarters come down and do their own testing. We test our officers ourselves. So supervisors in charge of teams will test by sending bags or questioning or giving off the cuff questions, 'What do you do when this happens?'" said Wells.

If you are concerned about the TSA looking through your bag, the scanning areas have cameras so the TSA can look at how their employees are inspecting bags. The TSA will always leave you a note inside your bag when it has been opened or a dangerous item has been removed. But if your bag is opened and nothing is removed, they won’t tell you why your bag was flagged for security reasons.

You may not like the secrecy of the TSA, but Wells says safety comes first.

“We can't say some things, but to know that we're going to take care of your bag and get you where you need to go safely, and back home to your family,” she said.

Wells said some of the most common items removed from checked bags are lithium ion batteries and aerosol cleaners larger than 20 ounces.

If you want to know what you can and cannot bring on an airplane, check the TSA website. Or if have a question about a specific item and you’re on Twitter, you can tweet at the @askTSA handle and they’re usually very quick to respond.

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