TSA gives rare look at baggage screening

NORTH CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Officials with the Transportation Security Administration gave the news media a rare look Monday at how baggage is screened at the Charleston International Airport.

On average, TSA screens 3,800 bags daily at the airport.

The baggage is screened in an underground room at the airport that is closed to the public.

"People usually get in the mindset of security on the upper side of the airport when they're going through security," TSA spokesman Mark Howell said.

Inside the room are eight machines that work like CT scanners.

Each machine costs $1 million.

The TSA officers run the baggage through the scanners.

They look for anything that might be hazardous.

"You might have things flammable, things like you just don't want to be on the plane, like hover boards, not for us so much, but for the airlines. They don't want hover boards on the plane," TSA Officer Candy Muckelvaney said.

The screen on the scanner will let the officers know if a bag needs a closer look.

One of the officers opened up a piece of baggage after the scanner set off an alarm.

The questionable items inside turned out to be bottles of relish.

The officer wiped the outside of the bottles to make sure there was no flammable material in them.

The alarm did not go off and the all clear was given.

"I'm just doing a visual inspection around the area to make sure there are no other signs of tampering," the officer explained.

Officials are hoping the behind the scenes tour will give fliers some peace of mind.

"Remind people that it's not just you going through security, it's everything that you're bringing with you to the airport," Howell said.

Airport officials are working on a completely new baggage check system that will require only two machines.

Those machines will be able to check 1,000 bags an hour.

The system is expected to be online in 2019.

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