Body Scanners

Security Scanner

Security Scanner

As a part of a multi-layered approach to security, Birmingham Airport has a security scanner in the passenger screening area.  You may be selected for scanning on a random basis or in order to resolve security concerns.  Please see further details below.

Why does Birmingham Airport have a security scanner?
There are already a number of effective security screening layers at Birmingham Airport but the nature of threats to aviation security is continually changing.  Security scanners provide an additional layer of security that offers an effective method of screening passengers for emerging threats.  Security scanners can now be found at a number of UK airports.

How does it work?
The scanner deployed at Birmingham Airport utilises harmless millimetre-waves, common radio-frequency signals, which reflect off objects at extremely low power levels.  These signals pass through clothing but do not penetrate the body.  The system then creates a 3-D silhouette - a stick-like figure - of the passenger's body, rather than an actual image so it is impossible to identify anybody.  With a single scan, operators can complete a thorough scan in less than 10 seconds.


  Body scanning

Are security scanners safe?
Yes.  There are a number of different security scanner technologies but all have been assessed by government health and safety regulators.  Tests have concluded that the dose received from being scanned is far below the allowed levels in the UK and does not constitute any unacceptable risk to health.  The system used at Birmingham Airport does not use ionizing radiation and is 10,000 times less powerful than other commercial radio frequency devices.

What is it like to be scanned?
There is no need to be concerned.  Unlike a hand search, no physical contact is required and passengers will not feel anything.  Those selected will be asked to take up a particular stance and security staff will provide guidance through the process.  The whole process takes only a few seconds.  If the scanner detects any potentially dangerous items on a person, then airport security staff will need to carry out further searches, which may include going through the scanner again.

Body Scanners

How will my privacy be protected?
The scanner deployed at Birmingham Airport is fitted with automated threat recognition software and the image produced by these scanners is a generic stick-like figure image.  It will identify any items on the figure which need further investigation.  Passengers can see this image as they exit the scanner.

Who will see the images?
The system creates a 3-D silhouette - a stick like figure - of the passenger's body, rather than an actual image so it is impossible to identify anybody.  Our vetted and trained security staff may view the images; passengers will also see the same as the security officers.  These images are deleted immediately after analysis and cannot be recovered at a later date.

What criteria will be used to select which passengers will be scanned?
Passengers are selected for scanning in order to resolve security concerns or on a random basis.  Selection is never based upon personal characteristics (ie on a basis that may constitute discrimination such as disability, sex, gender reassignment, age, race, religion or belief, pregnancy and maternity and sexual orientation).

Can passengers choose to be screened by an alternative method?
Yes, an alternative screening method will be at least a private search (an enhanced hand search in private which may involve the loosening and /or removal of some clothes). The Department for Transport considers that this alternative offers a comparative assurance to passengers as being screened by a security scanner.

Will children have to use the scanner?
Yes, children can be selected to go through the security scanner if selected.  It is a necessary measure in enhancing security for all passengers and to do otherwise would risk undermining the effect of these measures.

Can I be exempt on religious grounds?
Passengers refusing to use the security scanner will be searched by other methods. Selection is never based upon personal characteristics (ie on a basis that may constitute discrimination such as disability, sex, gender reassignment, age, race, religion or belief, pregnancy and maternity and sexual orientation).

Can passengers request to be viewed by someone of their own gender?
Yes.  The final Code of Practice states:  'A person selected for scanning may request that the screen reader is of the same sex and the airport must meet this request as quickly as possible'.

Is it safe for pregnant passengers?
Yes.  The dose received from the scanner is a small fraction of that received every day from natural sources and is far lower than the levels allowed by law for all types of people, including expectant mothers.

Will the security scanner show the implants or prosthetics of cancer patients?
No.  Security scanners are not designed to display images of internal organs or prostheses.  The system at Birmingham Airport creates a 3-D silhouette, a stick-like figure, of the passenger's body, rather than an actual image.

What health assessments have been undertaken?
The risks from the scanners have been assessed by several independent national and international bodies including the UK Health Protection Agency.  Tests have concluded that the dose received from being scanned is far below the allowed levels in the UK and does not constitute any unacceptable risks to health.

Will individuals with a pacemaker/internal defibrillators/an implantable device be made exempt from passing through the scanners?
The scanner deployed at Birmingham Airport utilises harmless millimetre-waves, common radio-frequency signals, which reflect off objects at extremely low power levels.  The dose received from being scanned is far below the allowed levels in the UK and does not constitute an unacceptable risk to health. Passengers refusing to use the body scanner will be searched by other methods.

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