Monday, July 16, 2007

Very Afraid in Miami

Michael Chertoff, the Homeland Security boss, told us he had a "gut feeling" that something was going to happen, and it did. I am presuming's hyper-vigilant "Blotter" was on the, er, case.

Concourse F at Miami International Airport was shut down for 90 minutes this morning when alert authorities found that a checked bag contained a cardboard box holding the ashes of a passenger's loved one.

''Our officers are highly trained to look for what we call IEDs, or improvised explosive devices,'' Sari Koshetz, a TSA spokeswoman, told the Miami Herald.

She told the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, "In an abundance of caution, we went through our proper security protocol, which we cordoned off a safe zone around the bag, called the bomb squad and made sure the public remained safe."

The ashes, or what we call remains, were not charged.

By the way, the T.S.A., after being lobbied by the funeral industry, firmly addressed the issue of carrying cremated remains on an airplane in 2004. You don't even have to put them in checked bags. You're supposed to be able to even carry them on with you, without Our Security Guardians getting the heebie-jeebies and shutting the airport down in a panic and calling out the bomb squad.

From the operative 2004 T.S.A. press release:

"WASHINGTON, D.C – The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) today announced a partnership with the nation’s funeral homes to ensure that cremated remains are safely and securely transported through airport security checkpoints.

'Americans have recognized the need for measures that have dramatically increased aviation security since the events of September 11th,' said Ron Sokolov, Executive Director for Customer Service and Education. 'As more Americans transport cremated remains, TSA and the nation’s funeral homes are striving to educate the public on the best method to move cremated remains through checkpoints in a manner that is both respectful to loved ones and secure.'

To maintain the highest level of security, TSA determined that documentation from a funeral home about the contents of a crematory container was no longer sufficient to allow the container through a security checkpoint and onto a plane.

Since February of this year [2004], all crematory containers must pass through an X-ray machine. If a container is made of a material that prevents screeners from clearly seeing what is inside, the container will not be allowed through the checkpoint. Out of respect for the deceased, screeners will not open a container, even if requested by the passenger.

TSA recommends that passengers transport remains in temporary or permanent 'security friendly' containers constructed of light-weight materials such as plastic or wood. Temporary containers are typically available from funeral homes and offer a security friendly means to travel by air with a crematory container.

Once the passengers complete their travel, they can visit their local TSA’s Funeral Home Partner who will transfer the remains from the temporary container to the permanent container free of charge. The complimentary 'Remains Transfer Service' has been embraced by the funeral industry and already many funeral homes have requested to become partners in this important customer service effort."


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