CB2: What TSA Can Learn From the Simpsons
Chris Bennett’s Crisis Blog (CB2) Part 1 of 2 on the TSA Debate
The TSA pat-down situation is making national and GovLoop headlines this week as images of naked body scans and videos of screaming children being frisked circulate through millions of travelers and non-travelers alike.
In today’s CB2 I’ll propose a partial solution to the screening issue that I believe could be implemented quickly, acknowledging upfront that a separate solution to how the scans are conducted is something out of my scope.
One of the best ways to diffuse anxiety and confrontation is to educate someone on an experience before it happens. Before boarding
The Simpsons Ride in Universal last month, I was presented with numerous signs describing how the ride worked, followed by a video on what it looked like to be on the ride. We were even locked in a small screening room to watch that video, ensuring nobody missed it. Not only does this education protect Universal legally, it also lets parents and children know what’s going to happen so they don’t freak out screaming and crying, ruining the experience for everyone else.
Three key words there: Safety, Efficiency, Experience. We all want the same three things out of airport security: a safe environment on the plane, efficient (fast) security lines, and a positive experience going through them. Since no traveler can change the current TSA rules after stepping into an airport, the more people that are fully aware of the screening process ahead of them, the fewer people will try to carry on hairspray or argue about a pat down, getting them through the line more efficiently, improving their experience and mine as I stand behind them in line.
Drawing from that belief that education can reduce one’s anxiety before an uncomfortable situation, here’s is what I’m submitting to Talk to TSA as my idea:
- The TSA website is great, including your overview of Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT), but let’s be honest, few people will ever seek this out ahead of their flight. TSA website traffic is estimated around 900,000 hits per month which is 1.5% of the estimated 60 million US travelers in that same period.
- But guess what? An estimated 73% of travelers purchase their airline tickets online, and growing. That means someone has their email addresses to educate them about security ahead of time.
- That’s right, the airlines have those email addresses. And yes, they care about travelers having a safe and positive experience as much as or more than you do, not to mention a traveler stuck in a TSA interrogation room could delay their flight, and that costs them money.
- So here’s an idea, work with the airlines on a standard where a security email goes out to travelers 24-48 hours before their flight. Briefly describe the current screening process to be expected and link to more in-depth resources on your website. Emphasize videos of what a pat down and AIT experience looks like. Offer it in multiple languages.
- Take that a step further and personalize that email based on which airport the traveler is flying out of. This could mean pictures of the screening area, a listing of which machines and processes are used, and other tips that the airport believes would address their common problems.
- Make it painfully obvious who the traveler can call or email with their question to address issues ahead of time. Let the traveler know it’s a take-it-or-leave-it situation. If they want to complain about the procedure, let them know where to take those complaints.
- Continue to encourage TSA videos in security lines that describe the process right then and there. Philadelphia’s new terminal does a great job of this. A 6″x12″ sign on a line divider doesn’t cut it.
So GovLoop, what do you think of this idea? Have you seen an airline start doing this recently? Let’s continue this discussion in the comments. Remember, if you have your own idea, GovLoop has a topic for that
Chris Bennett is a self-proclaimed emergency management innovator who is trying to make government better by improving citizen preparedness and crisis communications. He’s a graduate of Wharton with a master’s from Harvard with in “Technology, Innovation, Education.” His portfolio of companies and former projects include OneStorm Hurricane Preparedness, ReadyTown, GovLive, TexasPrepares and America’s Emergency Network. Chris was the recipient of FL Governor Crist’s 2008 Public Information Award. He lives in St. Petersburg, FL, loves to fish, and has been spotted sharing a pint with GovLoop Founder Steve Ressler in Tampa.
What does CB2 Mean? “Chris Bennett’s Crisis Blog.” It was originally CB Squared but the superscript 2 never took, so now we’re rocking the big 2.