Posted: April 30, 2018
By Natalie Dreier, Cox Media Group National Content Desk
The Transportation Security Administration isn’t known for its humor, but the government agency has won three internet awards thanks to its lighthearted messages used to keep us safe.
The International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences awarded the TSA Instagram account with awards for - Marketing/Corporate Communications, Social Content Marketing/Weird and the People’s Voice Award: Social Content Marketing/Weird.
TSA uses its various social media accounts, like on Instagram and Twitter, to “inform, educate and at times even entertain millions of travelers across the country.”
Just last month, its social media teams reminded travelers that swords are not allowed as carry-on items in tweet that started, “We expected this would happen once they started offering direct flights from San Antonio to Gondor.”
“We’re not in the entertainment business, but mixing humor with our messaging has been a very successful formula for us, and I’m glad IADAS as well as our followers have recognized and appreciated that.” Bob Burns said.
Burns is the TSA’s social media lead who runs the agency’s Instagram account and writes the captions for the photos.
Not only do the TSA’s social media accounts give lighthearted, tongue-in-cheek reminders, they also give tips on how to get through screening, packing and highlights its canine officers, plus it offers specific information on Twitter for big, national events like the Super Bowl.
TSA had 1,200 tweets in 2017 on its main account, and its Instagram account has more than 865,000 followers.
Most of us probably don’t know what any of those codes mean on your boarding pass, but there’s one that you won’t want to see when you’re flying. It’s a simple series of repeated letters, SSSS, and it means that you’ll be subject to additional screenings.
The SSSS is an acronym for Secondary Security Screening Selection. You and your luggage will be subject to a closer screening. You will be patted down, swabbed for explosive residue and your luggage will be opened and searched, News.com.au reported.
You may have to provide extra information to prove who you are and give complete travel plans in detail to screeners.
SSSS was developed by the Transportation Security Administration after 9/11 to prevent those who shouldn’t get into the U.S. from traveling here.
“Secure Flight is a risk-based passenger prescreening program that enhances security by identifying low and high-risk passengers before they arrive at the airport by matching their names against trusted traveler lists and watchlists,” TSA officials told Business Insider.
The list that feeds the SSSS code is a secret. The TSA said that people are added to it after a computer randomly selects travelers.
One clue that could mean that you may be on the list is if you can’t use online check-in for a flight, News.com.au reported.
The Transportation Safety Administration released surveillance video showing an agent moving a smoking bag containing an exploding lithium-ion battery away from passengers during a panic at Orlando International Airport Friday.
The TSA agent, a 20-year Army veteran, said he believed the bag to be an improvised explosive device. He placed it between a concrete column and a concrete planter to mitigate any harm that might come with a full explosion.
The TSA commended the agent, saying he ran the bag away even as panicked passengers "knocked over the queuing stanchions and dropped roller bags, creating loud banging sounds which were perceived as gunshots, further spreading panic throughout the airport."
Numerous people at OIA reported there was a panic caused by those loud noises, initially thought to be gunshots.
"Our TSA Team's performance was outstanding. I'm very proud of our team and how they responded to both the incident and the recovery process of rescreening passengers," said Jerry Henderson, TSA Federal Security Director. "Our people responded as they are trained to do, and to lead passengers to safety."
The Orlando Police Department said on Twitter that no shots had been fired and it was "a loud sound that startled people."
The department later said on Twitter that the noise was caused by a lithium-ion battery that exploded inside a camera.
The bag the camera was in started to smolder, but no one was injured, the OPD tweet said.
The incident was first reported just after 5 p.m., airport officials said in a statement.
"As a result of the incident, a ground stop was issued and a number of flights were held while passengers were allowed back into the building and security checkpoints reactivated," the statement said.
The OPD Twitter post did not go into detail about what had caused the loud sound.
The incident did not pose any danger to people at the airport, the department's Twitter post said.
Regardless, photos given to Channel 9 showed a normally busy terminal that was completely empty.
A video showed people evacuating trams at the airport.
Because everyone who evacuated the terminal had to go through security screening again, travelers were experiencing inordinately long lines.
"It's crazy. Nobody knows anything," traveler McKenzie Golden said.
She had just gone through the security checkpoint and was preparing to get onto a flight home to Michigan when the chaos hit.
"I heard people screaming and then everybody hit the ground and people were basically running over each other, trampling each other," Golden said.
Numerous flights were delayed due to the incident.
Hours after the battery explosion, massive crowds were still working their way through security to get to their flights.
A passenger at Orlando International Airport tried to bring a loaded gun in a carry-on bag through a security line Tuesday, adding to the long wait times during the post-Christmas rush, TSA officials said.
Agents retrieved the weapon, but they had to freeze one of the lines, which began to expand past the restaurants in the airport terminal.
Orlando police officers were called to investigate, as is standard protocol, officials said.
Travelers were asked to arrive at the airport at least three hours before their flights.
The busy travel period started Dec. 23.
AAA predicts that by the time the travel period ends on New Year's Day, more than 100 million Americans will have traveled by plane, train or car.
Traffic was picking up early at Orlando International Airport on Tuesday.
By 5:30 a.m., the security lines had about a 50-minute wait.
Many flyers said they purposely picked early flights hoping to avoid the rush.
The airport expects nearly 3 million people to pass through, a 7 percent increase from last year.
Airport officials expect about 145,000 people to pass through Tuesday.
Transportation Security Administration agents at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, Nevada found the carcass around 10 p.m. on Tuesday night when the passenger’s luggage caught their attention going through a security screener, according to Metropolitan Police Lt. David Gordon. Although the cougar appeared to have a Utah State Fish and Game tag on it, officials still had to hold the man at the airport while they worked to confirm the validity of the tag.
It was eventually determined that the tag was valid, but the travaler — who has not been publicly identified — instead shipped the carcass home in another manner, according to airport spokeswoman Melissa Nunnery. Nunnery said she was unaware of exactly where the dead cougar was being shipped.
“It is not a crime to transport game that is legal to possess via airlines,” Gordon said. “However, airlines reserve the right to tell passengers they do not want to transport certain items.”
The passenger, who was released by TSA agents, was not arrested or charged with any crimes because he did not do anything illegal, officials said.
Television film crew members were arrested at Newark Liberty International Airport on Thursday for allegedly trying to pass a piece of luggage containing “all the makings of an improvised explosive device,” ABC News reported.
The film crew members, who claimed to be working the CNBC show “Staten Island Hustle,” were detained by Transportation Security Administration officials. TSA officials said the crew tried to smuggle a roller bag that contained wires, a motor and PVC pipe through a checkpoint, ABC News reported.
One crew member was filming the incident, which allegedly was to test whether TSA officials would discover the concealed device. A third man involved in the filming told police the crew was testing “vacuum compression luggage,” ABC News reported.
In a statement, Endemol Shine North America, one of the producers of “Staten Island Hustle,” said there had been “a misunderstanding.”
Endemol Shine North America said in a statement. "The team was producing an episode about a new product, vacuum compression luggage, which allows travelers more room for clothing and has no other intended use,” Endemol Shine North America said. “Unfortunately, there appears to have been a misunderstanding, and we regret any inconvenience to TSA and other authorities on the ground for complications that may have been caused.”
TSA bomb techs cleared the bags after examining them and the crew was arrested, ABC News reported. The crew members were later released but could face civil penalties. The Essex County Prosecutor’s Office said it is reviewing the case, ABC News reported.
The Transportation Security Administration is not known for its sense of humor. “I was just joking” is probably the last words heard of many travelers before they are dragged into one of those private rooms at the airport.
But it turns out the TSA makes an exception for its Instagram account (did you know the TSA has an Instagram account?). When a traveler at San Antonio International Airport tried to bring a highly questionable item in his carry-on baggage, the TSA had some fun with it.
Yes, you can carry your sword in Texas — it’s still legal, believe it or not — but you can’t fly the friendly skies with it. In the post, TSA joked “We expected this would happen once they started offering direct flights from San Antonio to Gondor.”
Carrying on the “Lord of the Rings” reference, TSA continued: “Whether you’re a Ranger of the North, or a United States Marine, we know you need to travel with your sword. It’s fine, just place it in your checked baggage.”
A traveler trying to take his sword on a plane (where it would be somewhat effective against hypothetical terrorists, but not so good for snakes and such) probably doesn’t happen often. The TSA couldn’t resist a final joke for King Arthur / Monty Python enthusiasts:
“Oh, on a slightly unrelated note, a farcical aquatic ceremony does not entitle you to carry your sword on the plane. Just in case you were wondering…”
Sadly, there’s no word on the fate of the traveler or his sword.
This isn’t the only time whoever mans the TSA Instagram account had a little fun. Take a look at some of the other tongue-in-cheek posts.
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