Innovation takes flight on TSA blog

Tuesday - 4/20/2010, 10:41am EDT

Kristin Lee, Assistant Administrator, Office of Communications and Public Affairs, TSA

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By Suzanne Kubota
Senior Internet Editor
FederalNewsRadio.com

The word "blog" has become commonplace within most federal agencies, but one in particular is using it with hopes of making your next business trip a bit safer.

The Transportation Security Administration runs a blog designed to spur dialogue on security, technology and the checkpoint screening process.

Assistant Administrator in TSA's Office of Communications and Public Affairs Kristin Lee told Federal News Radio the agency seems to get as much out of the blog as the public does.

"The wonderful thing about our blog," said Lee, "is that it really has allowed us to have a conversation with the travelling public so it's allowed us to really engage with them, to listen to their comments, and at times has actually enabled us to change policies."

Policies, said Lee, and procedures.

Passengers were being asked to take out all of their electronic items - from not only laptops, which is our current policy, as well as..ear-pieces and other devices. We heard about this here at headquarters through our blog and that policy was inconsistent with sort of our nationwide policy, and through hearing passenger feedback, we were able to reach back out to our officers in the field and help really update that policy.

Asked what the biggest complaint is from the flying public on the blog, Lee told the Federal Drive there don't seem to be complaints as much as questions.

I wouldn't say there's one. There are a lot of questions about security and we have found that it's really helpful engage the travelling public and to help them understand the whys behind security. We hear a lot of questions. "Why do I have to take off my shoes?" "Why do I have to take out my laptop?" And by helping educate the public that these procedures help keep them safe while they're travelling, has really helped us to smooth the process and help people to both get through the checkpoint quicker and also helped us improve security.

TSA has one fulltime blogger, Blogger Bob, and five other bloggers as needed. Additional subject answer experts are also available as as needed.

While the blog continues to be a work in progress, Lee said the use of Twitter has been another tool to further the conversation. For example, Lee said to plan on seeing a tweet campaign coming soon with a tip a day on summer travel.

In addition to the number of people TSA can reach, Lee said Twitter has the advantage of immediacy. TSA has started using Twitter to respond to breaking news incidents, to update both passengers and news media as events unfold. "We were able to tweet the link to our latest statement so that passengers could see the latest news on that incident," reaching even passengers on the flights where the news was breaking just a few rows in front of them.