British authorities announced that they have disrupted a major terror plot intended to utilize liquid chemicals to blow up passenger flights traveling from the United Kingdom to the United States, prompting the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to raise the national threat level for the aviation sector and impacting those traveling on commercial airlines today.
According to preliminary reports, at least 21 people have been arrested in London and Birmingham, England, with officials continuing to conduct investigations. While there is currently no indication of any plotting within the U.S. or domestic air travel, the federal government is taking immediate steps to increase airport security measures.
Along with the already prohibited items, such as lighters, pocket knives or mace/pepper spray, passengers are not permitted to carry on liquids or gels of any kind. This includes all beverages, hair gels, shampoos, toothpaste and lotions. They may be placed in checked baggage, discarded or voluntarily surrendered at security checkpoints.
(File Photo Courtesy of TSA.gov)
As a precaution, the DHS has raised the nation’s threat level to Severe, or Red, for all commercial flights originating in the United Kingdom and bound for the United States. This adjustment reflects the Critical, or highest, alert level that has been implemented in the UK. DHS also raised the threat advisory level to High, or Orange, for all commercial aviation operating in or destined for the United States.
Neither DHS nor the Transporation Safety Administration (TSA) are discouraging flying today; however, due to the nature of this threat, passengers will not be able to carry liquids or gels of any kind. This includes all beverages, hair gels, shampoos, toothpaste and lotions aboard their flights, exceptions with some restrictions are being made for medications and baby formula. These items may be placed in luggage that is being checked and stored but they are prohibited from being carried on.
“We believe that the arrests in Britain have significantly disrupted this threat. We cannot assume, however, that it has been completely thwarted, or that we have fully identified and neutralized all members of this terrorist network,” announced Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff earlier today. “These measures will continue to assure that our aviation system remains safe and secure. Travelers should go about their plans confidently, while maintaining vigilance in their surroundings and exercising patience with screening and security officials."
The American Red Cross urges travelers to plan ahead and be prepared with the latest knowledge before heading to the airport. Travelers can visit the TSA Web site for the latest security updates and guidance.
Travelers can assist officials in carrying out their important security duties by:
- Packing lightly without clutter to facilitate easier screening. Place prohibited carry-on items in your checked baggage.
- Checking with your air carrier well before your flight departs for information on when you should arrive at the airport. If you are traveling today, it is recommended you arrive at least two hours before your flight is scheduled to depart.
- Cooperating with personnel at all checkpoints and gates because Security Officers will be checking carry-on baggage at the gate.
- Being attentive and vigilant to any suspicious activity.
- Trying to remain patient and stay calm as other passengers and airport/airline personnel may be tense.
Naturally, the possibility of terrorist incidents is a concern for many people and can cause anxiety; however, taking steps to prepare in advance for natural or man-made disasters can be empowering. The Red Cross offers the following recommendations to plan ahead to help you and your loved ones in the face of unsettling events:
Planning ahead can increase your sense of security in uncertain times. Before your trip, write or update an emergency communications plan so that you can easily notify loved ones of any changes in your travel plans whether due to heighten security causing delays or due to flight cancellations.
(File Photo: American Red Cross)
- Create an emergency communication plan. Choose an out-of-town contact your family or household will call or e-mail to check on each other should a disaster occur. Your selected contact should live far enough away that they would be unlikely to be directly affected by the same event, and they should know they are the chosen contact. Make sure every household member has that contact's, and each other's, e-mail addresses and telephone numbers (home, work, pager and cell).
- Establish a meeting place. Having a predetermined meeting place away from your home will save time and minimize confusion should your home be affected or the area evacuated. You may even want to make arrangements to stay with a family member or friend in case of an emergency. Be sure to include any pets in these plans, since pets are not permitted in shelters and some hotels will not accept them.
- Assemble an emergency supplies kit. If you need to evacuate your home or are asked to shelter in place, having some essential supplies on hand will make you and your family more comfortable.
Prepare an emergency supplies kit in an easy-to-carry container such as a duffel bag. Include first aid supplies including prescription medications, a change of clothing for each household member, a sleeping bag or bedroll for each, a battery-powered radio or television, flashlight and extra batteries, non-perishable food and water as well as items for any member of your household with unique needs (infant formula or items for people with disabilities or older people).
It is also a good idea to include some cash and copies of important family documents, such as birth certificates, passports and licenses, in your emergency kit. Copies of essential documents--like powers of attorney, birth and marriage certificates, insurance policies, life insurance beneficiary designations and a copy of your will--should also be kept in a safe location outside your home. A safe deposit box or the home of a friend or family member who lives out of town is a good choice.
For more information on safety and preparedness tips, contact your local chapter or visit Preparedness Today for a specific guide on how you can prepare yourself and your loved ones against the possibility of a terrorist attack.