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Pull out your iPad, TSA rolling out new flight rules for electronic devices

  • Transportation Security Administration officer Helen Hartmetz shows how to properly place electronics into screening bins. Beginning in 2018 travelers will be required to place any electronic device bigger than a cell phone into a separate bin at standard security checkpoints. (Katie Nussbaum/Savannah Morning News)
  • Tim Madere an explosive specialist with the Department of Homeland Security talks about how terrorists have tried to use explosives hidden in shoes and liquids and how the discovery of those items has led to security check point regulations. (Katie Nussbaum/Savannah Morning News)

Travelers taking to the skies in 2018 can expect a few new Transportation Security Administration regulations as they pass through standard security checkpoints at Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport and other airports across the country.

Passengers will now be required to place any electronic device bigger than a cell phone into a screening bin.

Previously, only laptops had to be removed from carry-on bags, but the new rules apply to cameras, e-readers, tablets and DVD players among other items.

“We’re rolling it out nationwide now and the completion date for most airports is early 2018,”said Transportation Security Administration Regional Spokesman Mark Howell, who was on hand at Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport Friday with TSA officers and Department of Homeland Security officials to brief passengers on the new rules.

The checkpoint at Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport has been enforcing the rule part-time as officers undergo training and passengers get accustomed to the new step. If you haven’t been asked to place electronics in a separate bin yet, Howell said you can expect it soon.

Howell said travelers often pack lots into carry-on bags, which can produce a messy picture as it goes through the X-Ray machine making it hard for officers to know exactly what is in the bag.

“Sometimes things (packed) together can look weird, so what we’re doing is asking people to de-clutter their bags and separate those things. By removing those electronics and placing them in the bins you’re taking a layer out and making it easier for the X-Ray operator to clear the bag without having to do a secondary bag search,” he said.

Friday’s event also served as a reminder for passengers about why certain rules are in place at security checkpoints, such as requiring passengers to remove their shoes and why liquids, aerosols, gels, creams and pastes over 3.4 ounces aren’t permitted.

“Richard Reid was back in 2001, so a lot of millennials and younger folks don’t know the rule or why we have the rules in place because it was before they were travelers, so it’s a good way to get the word out on why we have the rules in place that we do,” Howell said.

Known as the “shoe bomber,” Reid attempted to ignite explosives in his shoes while aboard American Airlines flight 63 in December 2001. In 2006 a thwarted plot to use liquid explosives disguised inside soda bottles led to the eventual liquids rule.

“(The rules) aren’t arbitrary. We’re not making you take your shoes off just to get your feet on the carpet it’s rooted in real world intelligence and things that have happened before.”

While the new rules may slow checkpoints at first officers are confident that it will save time in the long run. Howell said regulations are constantly evolving as people try new methods to disrupt travel. The goal, he said, is to stay one step ahead.

“This is why we have to evolve our procedures, because they evolve theirs,” he said.

“… We’re trying to stay ahead of them, so we have to change the rules to keep in front of them. We work with intelligence agencies and keep an eye on things that are happening across the globe and we evolve as they do.”

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