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Sunday, September 15, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Spokane

Getting There: TSA is ready to help those with medical issues get to their planes

Federal airport security officers want people with medical issues to know they can get through security no matter what devices, implants or medicines they have.

The U.S. Transportation Security Administration has developed a series of procedures using advanced technology to maintain accessibility to air travel while at the same time protecting the dignity and privacy of those with medical conditions and disabilities.

TSA officials in Spokane last week talked about how they handle medical concerns as the peak Thanksgiving travel period approaches.

Lorie Dankers, spokeswoman for the TSA , said agency officers have seen just about every medical condition or concern and are prepared for them.

But they especially want to be sensitive to those passengers so they will feel welcome to fly.

“(Travelers) should never think of screening as a barrier for them to travel,” Dankers said.

“They should feel like nothing is too unusual” for screening officers to handle discreetly, she said.

Parents traveling with small children; people with artificial joints; people needing regular medication; and seniors facing multiple health issues are among the many types of medical issues screening officers face.

TSA officers will never separate a traveler from their needed medical devices or supplies, Dankers said.

The agency maintains a force of security officers known as passenger support specialists who have extra training in dealing with disabilities and medical conditions.

The more complicated their health issues, the more important it is for travelers to arrive at the airport early – as much as two hours before a flight, officers said.

TSA also recommends that people with medical issues inform the security officers at the checkpoint. A passenger specialist can be requested at that time.

TSA allows medically necessary liquids or gels in excess of the 3.4-ounce maximum for carry-on items. However, they should be kept separate from nonmedical items and screening officers should be told about them.

Medically necessary items can be placed in an analyzer to screen for explosives.

The electrical portion of medical devices will have to be checked. Those should be removed from carrying cases and be available to security officers.

One of the more common devices is known as a CPAP pump for people with sleep apnea. Officers recommend pulling the pump out of the bag for the check, but not the hoses.

The same goes for a nebulizer.

“A very large number of people come through with CPAPs,” said Officer Tammy Dodson, a passenger support specialist.

Kits for insulin injections will pass security.

Pouching systems worn on the body can be checked by having the traveler pat the bag and then screening the traveler’s hands for traces of explosives. It can be done very discreetly, officers said.

People with pacemakers should request a full-body scan, which avoids the use of X-rays. The same goes for artificial joints.

Walkers, wheelchairs, canes and crutches have to be checked, but users can get through security in a number of ways. The same goes for people with casts.

If a pat-down is required, the traveler can have it done privately. Two officers of the same gender will conduct the pat-down gently, officers said.

The traveler is allowed to have someone with them during a private pat-down.

Passengers can call TSA Cares at (855) 787-2227 no more than 72 hours in advance of departure to arrange help through a medical screening.

“We are here to make it happen. We don’t want anyone not to fly,” Dankers said.

Airport travel tips

Spokane International Airport is asking passengers to be ready for a busy airport and inclement weather when traveling during the holidays.

The airport posted a series of tips last week.

For the latest flight information, go to spokaneairports.net.

Do not take wrapped packages to the airport, either in carry-on or checked luggage.

A convenient cellphone lot on the inbound leg of Airport Way is available for pickups.

Curbside drop-offs and pickups will be busy; drivers need to stay with their vehicles.

Allow extra time in getting to the airport; at least 90 minutes to two hours is recommended.

Rules allow one carry-on piece of luggage and a smaller personal bag such as a purse or laptop.

Liquids and gels are limited to 100 milliliters (3.4 ounces) each unless medically necessary.

Avoiding hassles

on the highways

For drivers, the Washington state Department of Transportation has convenient charts and maps showing the best and the worst times to travel over Snoqualmie Pass on Interstate 90, or on Interstate 5 and other busy highways.

The charts and maps are available at wsdot.wa.gov/congestion/thanksgivingday.

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