New Security Devices in Place at Both Houston Airports

They look like giant metal trash cans on wheels, but the Houston Airport System is hoping ten brand new threat containment devices will do a lot more than collect trash. As Houston Public Radio's Jack Williams reports, the 700 pound units are now on hand to quickly move suspicious carry-on baggage away from TSA security checkpoints.

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Bush and Hobby Airports will be the first in the world to have the mobile containment devices at TSA checkpoints, units made of layers of metal and other material that can sustain a substantial explosion. Eamonn Cooney with Aigis Blast Protection pulls open a thick steel lid that looks like the door to a small safe.

"Basically what happens is the unit is positioned at the hand-baggage screening point and so when a piece of hand-baggage is determined to be suspect in any way you would take it off the screening belt and just deposit it into this unit and then you close the unit up and you take it away. The point is to keep the airport open and to just take away out of the terminals where the bomb squad would deal with it instead of the option today, which is you don't have this and it's happening in the terminal and you're closed."

Cooney says the devices, which are placed at 10 TSA checkpoints at Bush and Hobby airports, are big enough to hold most carry-on luggage, but are easy to wheel away to a safe area.

"The real beauty of these is they're built for the worst-case scenario. It is a suspect item and it might be an explosive device. That's what we do. The benefit is the airport would use them all the time. Even if it's a chocolate bar I don't like. The point now is you're going to reduce and remove all the aggravation of suspect bags going through. Just take it away, remove it, because it's all about keeping the airport open."

The units are about $25,000 each. LAX in Los Angeles uses a similar but larger unit to protect against explosives in checked luggage. The Houston Airport System's Deputy Director of Public Safety and Technology Mark Mancuso says the devices are a good investment.

"Houston has decided that it wanted to lead the nation in this effort in protecting the lives of passengers as well as employees in the travel industry. We believe strongly that it is our role and responsibility to provide these kinds of technologies in order to protect not only the passenger and employees but also to ensure business continuity."

You can see a picture of the new threat containment device on our website, KUHF.org.

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