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What passengers should know about airport security

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By Katie Johnston Chase
Globe Staff / November 23, 2010

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If you’re traveling this holiday season, here are a few things from the Transportation Security Administration you should know about airport security measures:

Q. Who gets chosen to go through a full-body scanner?

A. If you’re in a security line with a scanner, you may be directed to go through it. If there’s a backup, you may be sent through a metal detector instead. Logan Airport has 17 full-body scanners, at least one at every major checkpoint. Scanners are now at 69 airports nationwide.

Q. What does the scanner show?

A. A slightly blurred but accurate image of a traveler’s naked body.

Q. What happens to those images?

A. The scanners have the capability to store images, but the feature is disabled before they are installed in airports.

Q. If you feel uncomfortable going through a full-body scanner, what can you do?

A. You can opt for a pat-down, which will be conducted by a TSA officer of the same gender.

Q. What if you feel uncomfortable with a pat-down?

A. You can request that it be done in a private screening area.

Q. How many people go through the scanners at Logan every day?

A. The TSA doesn’t keep figures for individual airports, but about 99 percent of the people nationwide who are directed to go through scanners choose to do so.

Q. Is anyone exempt from going through the full-body scanners?

A. Pilots.

Q. Some people are concerned about radiation from the body scanners.

A. The full-body scanners emit radiation levels equal to what a person is exposed to during two minutes of airplane flight.

Q. What kind of training do TSA agents undergo?

A. Security officers conducting pat-downs receive 5 hours of formal training and 5 hours of on-the-job training. Officers operating the full-body scanners get 2 1/2 days of classroom training and 8 hours on-the-job training.

Q. What are the screening/pat-down specifications for people with disabilities?

A. The TSA has worked in conjunction with more than 70 disability related groups to develop specific procedures for people with disabilities and medical conditions. Passengers should inform officers if they have a disability or medical condition.

Katie Johnston Chase can be reached at johnstonchase@globe.com.