Two Updates to TSA Roulette

My previous post discussed the stress of going through TSA airport security when traveling with an insulin pump and how it can be like playing roulette.  I have two updates to that post.  One recounts a recent airport security experience.  The other describes a special TSA program for people with disabilities and medical conditions.


Laddie_Head SquareRandomly Not Diabetes

Late last week I returned home from an international family vacation and had an ironic adventure with airport security.

My trip out of Minneapolis was uneventful with a routine pat-down and hand swabbing.  Although the TSA agent at the AIT (Advanced Imaging Technology) scanner told me that “everyone goes through with their pumps”, he did not argue when I refused to do so.  The pat-down was efficient and the female agent was professional and kind.

My husband used online check-in for the trip home.  It went smoothly for him and the  children and grandchildren. But he was unable to check me in online.

At the airport I got my boarding pass with no problem and I assumed that the online  glitch was a thing of the past.  No such luck.  When my passport was scanned at the security desk, it was immediately confiscated along with my boarding pass.  I was instructed to go through the metal detector and then retrieve my documents from the agent on the other side.  That retrieval involved having my purse and backpack inspected compartment by compartment and item by item.  This was followed by a pat-down and hand swabbing.

Passport and boarding pass in hand, I headed for the gate.  When my boarding pass was scanned by the Delta agent, I was pulled aside for another search of my possessions along with another pat-down.

If you travel much, you know that I was just a passenger selected randomly by the TSA for enhanced security screening.  It was a scenario unrelated to diabetes that I neglected to put on my TSA Roulette Wheel.

After going through customs and retrieving my luggage in Atlanta, I received another security pat-down because of my insulin pump.  It was a fitting end to a three pat-down day for a Type 1 grandma traveling with a baby, a screaming 2-year old, a 5-year old, three adults, a group total of ten pieces of carry-on luggage, and an insulin pump.

TSA Cares

Yes, despite occasional evidence to the contrary, they actually do care and have a program called TSA Cares to prove it.

TSA Cares is designed to help people with disabilities and medical TSA Logoconditions navigate the security screening process.  The entry into the program is through a help line at 1-855-787-2227.  It is recommended that passengers call the help line 72 hours before a trip.  For many people the phone call will provide all the information and assistance necessary.  For others with more complex needs, the help line agent can arrange for a Passenger Support Specialist (PSS) to personally escort them through the screening process at airports with the program.

Meri Schumacher of Our Diabetic Life is the mother of 3 boys with Type 1 diabetes.  She wrote a very informative blog post about her recent experiences with Patient Support Specialists through TSA Cares.  She was very emphatic that the PSS program is at risk for being discontinued if more people do not use it.

So check out the program and give it a try if you think it would be helpful to you.  And be sure to spread the word to friends or family members who might benefit from TSA Cares and a Passenger Support Specialist.

Playing Roulette with the TSA

Laddie_Head SquareThere are a couple of certainties in my life. If I want to travel, I need to fly. If I fly, I need to go to the airport. If I want to get to my airplane, I must go through a TSA security checkpoint. Sounds pretty simple, doesn’t it?

Like most people who travel with an insulin pump, my stress level rises as I approach the TSA checkpoint. My normal strategy is to stick my pump inside my waistband and wear a shirt long enough to hide it from view. If I see that I will be screened with a traditional metal detector, I rejoice because I have a good chance of walking through it without alarms and therefore no pat-down. Occasionally I set off the alarm and I’ve never been able to figure out why sometimes it alarms and usually it doesn’t.

If I see an advanced imaging technology scanner, I know it is a certainty that I will have to declare my pump and receive a pat-down. Some TSA personnel will tell you that you can wear your pump through the scanner, but I choose to follow the directive of my pump company that the pump should not go through the scanner.

I hate pat-downs and feel somewhat violated by them. I have been lucky that every pat-down agent has always treated me politely and I do my best to relax knowing it will be over soon. I live in total fear of having the horrible TSA experience that fellow Type 1 Kelly Kunik experienced in April of this year.

I once flunked the swabbing of my hands and that resulted in a search of my carry-on luggage as well as an extensive pat-down in a private area. Oops, I mean an area behind a partition although I think they also searched my private areas. Rumor has it that hand lotion can cause a false positive, so I try to remember to never use it before traveling. Kelly Kunik thought that soap might have been the culprit in her swab test.

TSA RouletteBasically the TSA experience is a crapshoot. It’s a roulette game where you spin the wheel and what you get is what your get. Earlier this year there was an online petition urging for consistency in screening of people with diabetes. I have read that the TSA values inconsistency and I think it is unlikely that we will see much change.

My husband travels frequently and qualifies for TSA PreCheck. This is a program that according to Delta’s website is “an intelligence-driven, risk-based screening initiative through which eligible passengers are selected for expedited screening.” He goes through a special line at Delta checkpoints and walks through without removing his shoes, belt, or liquids and computer from his briefcase. It seems to me that there could be a program where people with medical devices, artificial joints, etc. could pre-register in some program that would help us move through security in an easier and more predictable way.

Every time I am selected for additional screening, I marvel at our security system where senior citizens in wheelchairs or with artificial joints and people with insulin pumps are being pulled aside every time that we travel. At the same time I read of people who have gotten guns and knives through the checkpoints. Not to say that a granny can’t be a terrorist, but in general, someone is wasting resources here.

I’ll be traveling later this week. Time to play roulette with the TSA!