Personnel and Property Inspection Procedures2013-08-28T13:46:14-04:00

by Mark Hardison, CPO
September 2001
Reprint Protection Officer News - Fall 2000

At most high security facilities, some form of property inspection procedure is in place. Increasingly, people are also checked before being admitted into, or allowed to exit from, a facility. There are many ways to perform these tasks. Sometimes it is simply a Security Officer; watching for unusual activity. There may be property removal/entry forms, or other documentation in use. Commonly, there are three basic methods in use to inspect persons or property entering and/or exiting a facility. They are: X-ray screening, electronic scanners, and visual/manual

X-rays are a useful tool for inspections. Especially for mail, sealed packages and personal items like purses. Who will operate, and under what conditions they will use, the X-ray machine will be determined by the management at that location. Good training of the operators will provide them with examples of prohibited items (or simulators) for comparison. This will give them a feel for what they are actually looking for. When it is not practical to have actual examples or simulators on hand; it is useful to have a book of photographs of items. It would be best to have the photos taken of the objects as they appear on the screen of the X-ray machine that is in use; giving a realistic feel to to the training aid. At my work place, I have assembled a book of photos of this type; and I have found it to be a useful aid for training. The hardest part of this process was the acquisition of the examples. A realistic bomb simulator is not an off the shelf item! Having the services and advice of experts can help greatly. If you do not have anyone on staff with these skills, the local police or military bomb squad may be able to help.

Electronic scanners can come in several forms. The most common is the metal detector. Metal detectors range from simple handheld scanners, up to large complex portals. There is considerable variation in the sensitivity and capability of these units; depending on make and model. As the operator you will need to know the what types of metals your unit will detect, and the sensitivity that it is capable of. For example, some scanners will only detect ferrous metals, while others will detect any metal substance. Again, training should help you to determine what will, and will not, pass.

Another type of scanner detects the presence of a special tag. These tags are usually fixed to sensitive/expensive items. Training should demonstrate to the operator whether these tags can be defeated; if for example they were shielded by foil. This training will help the operator detect attempts to pass items through.

Visual/manual inspection (hand inspection), is often neglected; since the high-tech methods are often seen as a replacement. But, when I see a ‘customer’ walk up to an entry station with a 44 oz. drink in their hand, put it on the table, then walk through the portal and pick up the drink to walk on.... "Please tell me, just what is the metal content of that drink?" This serves as a reminder that the operator needs to be on the look out for attempts to defeat the technology. The best line of defense is the operators brain. In the event that the customer does not want the item to be X-rayed or scanned; other inspection methods may be called for. In the case of a single-lens-reflex camera, the inspection can be as simple as looking through the viewfinder. For cellphones and beepers, you could have the customer turn on the device. If the batteries are ‘dead’, then it should be no problem to open up the cover to display the dead batteries.

By knowing the nature of the contraband that you are guarding against; and then asking yourself, "Could ‘X’ be hidden here?"; you can often check the customer without them being aware of the inspection. As with many aspects of security work, looking for the unusual or the out of place are key functions. A letter that seems abnormally heavy; or a box that seems abnormally light, could be a good indicator that a closer look is warranted.

As the inspector, it is your responsibility to check for contraband. While technology can make this task easier, it cannot become a replacement for an alert, thinking operator. Ultimately, you are the key to good security.