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Published: Sunday, 9/11/2011 - Updated: 2 years ago

Americans adapt to tighter security

BY MARK REITER
BLADE STAFF WRITER
In January, 2002, just four months after the attacks, travelers at Detroit Metro Airport continued to adjust to the heightened scrutiny at screening checkpoints that awaited passengers at all American airports. In January, 2002, just four months after the attacks, travelers at Detroit Metro Airport continued to adjust to the heightened scrutiny at screening checkpoints that awaited passengers at all American airports.
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Ten years ago, there was no Transportation Security Administration and Department of Homeland Security, visitors could freely come and go from many government buildings, and identification wasn't needed to board a plane.

The terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, forever changed the lives of Americans as law enforcement and intelligence communities addressed vulnerabilities in security.

The Transportation Security Administration, established in legislation passed by Congress shortly after the attacks, federalized passenger and baggage screening at the nation's airports, replacing a system of private contractors. The new system caused long lines of passengers waiting to be screened.

The actions of terrorists in hijacking four planes to be used as weapons were the impetus for the changes.

The legislation enacted many enhanced security measures, including requiring passengers to arrive hours before flying and to submit their shoes, jackets, and laptop computers to inspection and limiting liquids on flights. It also led to reinforced cockpit doors to prevent intruders from gaining access.

Passengers no longer endure long lines to board planes, and inefficiencies at screening checkpoints have been eased at airports.

Paul Toth, airport director for the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority, credits new equipment such as advanced imaging technology software for streamlining checkpoint procedures. The port authority operates Toledo Express Airport. "We have seen a great evolution with the Transportation Security Administration. The technology they have implemented has not only reduced their staffing, but they now can quickly process passengers," Mr. Toth said. "It is almost like it was back prior to 911 but now we have all the safeguards in place to make sure that we don't have a repeat of it."

Public buildings, to a lesser extent, also were affected by the attacks.

Locally, Ohio Highway Patrol troopers have become part of the security force at Michael DiSalle Government Center in downtown Toledo. Anyone who visits or does business in the 22-story office tower must show identification and sign in.

"Sept. 11 was a date that really marked the beginning of increased security. Before that, they were kind of viewed as public facilities where anybody can come in. They still can come in, but they have to prove who they are, and if someone who comes in … acts suspiciously, the patrol is right there," said Mark Haberman, assistant executive director of the Ohio Building Authority, which manages most state buildings.

Monitoring the flow of walk-in traffic was among the changes at Government Center, which houses city, county, and state offices.

"Right after 9/11 the state did audits of all state property and made recommendations," Mr. Haberman said. "The buildings that got the highest security level got state troopers on site."

Mr. Haberman said security was improved by adding surveillance cameras and installing X-ray machines in the loading dock to scan packages that entered the building.

The authority also built concrete planters along Jackson Boulevard to help barricade the entrance and changed the landscaping to buffer the building from threats, he said.

On another front, Americans traveling to Mexico or Canada are now required to show a passport or similar document that shows U.S. citizenship at the borders to return home.

Contact Mark Reiter at: markreiter@theblade.com or 419-724-6199.



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