THE UNTOLD STORY OF AN AIRPORT SECURITY SCREENING OFFICER
Security Screening Officers (SSO) at the airport plays a crucial role in securing the country’s gateway.
They are our “first line of defense” against acts of unlawful interference.
Every year, millions of passengers go through security checks and the scrutinizing eyes and guts of SSOs, just so weapons, explosives and seemingly innocent everyday items are prevented from coming in.
Their job is far from being easy. They work on a fast-paced environment where they encounter rushing passengers, who frowns upon strict security processes that they have to go through before they are allowed access onto the aircraft and other restricted areas. Everyday, they have to deal with irate passengers who complain of airport security policies on prohibited items, that are surrendered and subsequently disposed in the Security Risk Items (SRI) box. Where do these thing go after? They asked. While, others complained of being subject of unnecessary pat-down, which they described as awkward.
Many people ween that airport security are mere security guards. No, they don’t. They are highly-skilled technical workers who has the knowledge and capability to detect explosives and weapons using images reflected on the X-ray machine in a span of split seconds. They conduct pat-down procedures to detect creative concealment of weapons and explosives for any ill-intent. They employ strategies using Explosive Trace Detection systems to detect presence of explosive precursors, vapors and particles. Basically, they are our HEROES.
What many people do not understand is that, SSOs are also equipped with interpersonal ability and skill to interact with thousands of passengers with different personalities. They normally communicate policies in a firm but courteous manner, that most passengers appreciate.
They are also critical thinkers. As there have been varying security situations, the SSOs think critically according to the Standard Operating Procedures, to appropriately respond to threats and the needs of each passenger.
With their measly salary ranging from P13,000 to P30,500 (supervisor) a month, most of them have to tighten their belts to make ends meet. Some of them relied on additional bonuses that they are entitled to every year to pay for their bills, while some do freelance jobs to earn extra income.
They are compelled to render overtime in times that flights get delayed, without receiving any amount of compensation. Their leaves of absence were cancelled in exigency of service as frontlines. During typhoons, they oftentimes waited for hours for the next duty team to arrive before they can leave their respective posts. Sacrifices that remain unappreciated, are what makes their morale and self-esteem low. As what some SSOs have mentioned, their jobs are pretty thankless jobs.
In 2015, as the issue on the alleged Tanim Bala surfaced, SSOs were collectively regarded as those in cahoots with police officers to milk money from our Kababayans and foreign friends, as they inadvertently brought in ammunition at the airport. What the public failed to understand was that, preventing the introduction of these prohibited items ensures the integrity of the security system of the airport and that of the aircraft. Secondly, should they fail to intercept these items and it reached countries with strict regulations on firearms and ammunition, the passenger could potentially face years of imprisonment and hefty fines.
SSOs practically do not ask for a pat on the back for a job well done, as they avowed to do all these things as part of their duty to safeguard the country’s civil aviation security. But part of them wants to raise consciousness among the riding public that they are not their adversaries. A change in security culture that would appreciate the work they do to prevent loss of lives, damage to properties, and most importantly, provide a safe, secure and comfortable travel for all.