TSA Testing New Explosive Screening Technology

TSA Testing New Explosive Screening Technology

The Transportation Security Administration announced Wednesday that it has been testing a new screening technology that can detect suicide vests in heavily populated “soft target” areas that lack official security screenings, such as subway stations.

The Transportation Security Administration announced Wednesday that it has been testing a new screening technology that can detect suicide vests in heavily populated “soft target” areas that lack official security screenings, such as subway stations. The TSA will partner with the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority to test the device, known as a stand-off explosive detection unit.

The explosive screening system detects potential threats by identifying any metallic or non-metallic objects that block the naturally occurring emissions from a person’s body. It then triggers an alarm if a person carrying or wearing a person-borne improvised explosive device passes by it.  

"We're really looking for those alarm indicators. And so as that bar turns from green to red, we know we've identified an individual that may need a little closer scrutiny," said Alex Wiggins, head of security for Los Angeles' transit authority. "If we can encounter that person as they enter the station in the mezzanine, we can very, very quickly isolate them and move to an area where if there is a threat we can contain that much better."

The device doesn’t use radiation and doesn’t display anatomical details of a person. The equipment operator simply sees a camera image of a person, similar to what the person looks like to the plain eye.

The detection system can help combat the growing threat to mass transit systems, which have been increasingly targeted by terrorists. It has already been used for large events such as the Super Bowl.

“We are committed to identifying, testing and deploying technology that addresses threats to transportation across the spectrum,” TSA Administrator David Pekoske. “We need to innovate and evolve faster than the adversary, and more importantly, deploy technology ahead of the threat-curve.”

The announcement comes days after a would-be suicide bomber detonated a homemade pipe bomb at the Port Authority station in New York City near Times Square, injuring five people and himself.

About the Author

Jessica Davis is the Associate Content Editor for 1105 Media.

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