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Frontline of airport security

AROUND 100,000 travelers depart from Shanghai Pudong International Airport everyday, creating numerous mental and physical challenges for security officers tasked with keeping the facility safe. In the hustle and bustle, travelers may not care much about the airport s security check processes. Few of them may be aware that these are key to maintaining travel safety. On the first day of the Lunar New Year, the Pudong airport was crowded with holiday travelers.

Hard work

At that time, security staff who started work at 5am needed to face the first rush hour of the day. Yang Lingjiong watched closely at the screen of an X-ray scanner as fliers waited in long queues at security checkpoints. Yang s job is to look for suspicious items and prohibited articles in luggage. Even a matchstick can t be allowed to slip past. When a person arrives at the airport, he or she is put under surveillance immediately. Only once a traveler passes through a variety of screening processes and a security check outside the departure hall, can he or she board their plane.

Safety is the top priority of civil aviation and in all travelers best wishes. Around 4,000 security officers on the ground at the Pudong airport help keep each flight safe. From external monitoring on aprons to luggage checking and pat-downs, they safeguard every corner of the airport. At the security checkpoint, travelers boarding and identity information will be verified. An X-ray scanner screens luggage while an officer will use a metal-detecting wand for further screening.

For each traveler, an officer with a hand-held wand has to squat down once and walk around the traveler for screening. Nearly 70 travelers pass through the security check point every minute meaning the officer has to squat down tens of thousands of times a day and walk thousands of steps.

Safety frontline

At the security checkpoint, a team of five needs to work together to ensure the process goes smoothly and passengers pass through within the shortest possible time. The X-ray scanner operator, the officer who opens luggage and the pat-downs officer are the key members in each team. Each of the three have at least three years of work experience. Yang started her job 16 years ago but still feels nervous each time she sits down behind the X-ray scanner.

You have to make your judgment in a few seconds and keep alert all the time, she said. Security officers are tasked with identifying prohibited items like knives or lighters hidden in luggage. X-ray scanner operators work half an hour at a time because of the high stress and vigilance that are part of the job.

The consequence of a miss could be unbearable, said Yang.

Yang and her colleagues seize thousands of contraband items each year, including bullets, replica guns, knives, chemicals and batteries. For her hard work, Yang has been awarded the national labor medal. Security officers at the airport have to work 24-hour shifts. The last flight departs from Pudong airport at 00:50am and earliest takes off at 4:30am. If there is a delay, they have to work through the night.

Our work is meaningful and valuable, Yang said. As we are on the frontline to keep all the flights safe.

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