U.S. airports and the country’s Department of Homeland Security are on high alert after terrorist attacks on Brussels (BRU) and the Belgian city’s subway system left more than two dozen dead and more than 100 injured.
Airports Council International – North America President and CEO Kevin Burke says the organization has been monitoring the security situation in Brussels. He says airports are coordinating with the TSA and local law enforcement officials to evaluate security measures based on available intelligence and local, national and international incidents.
“North American airports take every threat seriously and apply a rigorous, comprehensive, multi-layered, risk-based approach that provides effective aviation security while providing for the efficient movement of passengers and goods,” he says.
Individual airports are responding in different ways. Doug Yakel, a spokesman for San Francisco International (SFO), says airport officials are reviewing the incident with the Transportation Security Administration to determine if the incident warrants changes to passenger screening procedures and other security protocols.
“Passengers can expect to immediately see heightened vigilance in the form of increased patrols around the airport,” Yakel adds.
Miami International (MIA) has increased the presence of uniformed officers and canine units in and around the terminal and employees across the Miami-Dade Aviation Department have been alerted to heighten their vigilance around suspicious activity, according to a statement.
“Miami-Dade Police and [MDAD] have also increased patrols on the airport perimeter and will increase random inspections at airport entrances,” according to the statement.
The Port Authority of New York-New Jersey released a statement indicating its police department is stepping up security around all of its assets, including bridges, tunnels, the Port Authority Bus Terminal, the World Trade Center site and its three major airports: John F. Kennedy International (JFK), Newark Liberty International (EWR) and LaGuardia (LGA). The department will be conducting additional bag checks at its PATH rail system.
The Chicago Department of Aviation, which operates O’Hare International (ORD) and Midway (MDW), and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International (ATL), both indicate they are on heightened alert and coordinating with federal, state and city law enforcement agencies. “Safety and security are always a constant focus” at the airport, according to ATL’s statement.
Massport, which owns and operates Boston Logan International (BOS), would not discuss specific tactics, but indicated that the safety of the people who use and work in its facilities is top priority.
“Security at our facilities is multi layered and constantly evolving,” the agency wrote in a statement.
Denver International (DEN), to this point, has not been directed by TSA or DHS to make any changes. “We always have a heightened sense of awareness,” adds Heath Montgomery, spokesman.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security “is closely monitoring the unfolding events in Brussels and we remain in contact with our counterparts in the region,” the agency announced via Twitter. “DHS will not hesitate to adjust our security posture, as appropriate, to protect the American people.”
Two of three explosions occurred at BRU, with at least 11 dead and more than 80 injured in those blasts alone, according to media reports.
Patrick Hogan, spokesman at Minneapolis-St. Paul International (MSP), called on travelers to be alert as they go about their business at airports.
“Clearly, transportation continues to be a target for terrorists,” he says. “The attack in Belgium underscores the need for everyone to be vigilant and report unattended bags and suspicious activity to police.”
Homeland Security officials agree. “We encourage the public: If you see something, say something,” the agency posted on Twitter. “Report suspicious activity to local authorities.”