NEWS

Morning Security Brief: Arizona Wildfire Rages On, GAO Criticizes TSA Program, and New Security Laws in Tennessee

By Holly Gilbert

► An Arizona wildfire that killed 19 firefighters from an elite firefighting unit is still raging northwest of Phoenix, according to the Chicago Tribune. "With no way out, the 19 elite firefighters did what they were trained to do when trapped by a wildfire: They unfurled their foil-lined, heat-resistant shelters and rushed to cover themselves on the ground," according to an AP article at NewJersey.com. "The shelter is designed to reflect heat and trap cool, breathable air inside for a few minutes while a wildfire burns over a person," it states. "The glue holding the layers of the shelter together begins to come apart at about 500 degrees, well above the 300 degrees that would almost immediately kill a person," the story explains. "But its success depends on firefighters being in a cleared area away from fuels and not in the direct path of a raging inferno of heat and hot gases," it states. The Chicago Tribune reports that the blaze has ravaged more than 8,400 acres of land and ruined around 200 structures, most of which were homes. The loss of 19 firefighters from the Granite Mountain Hot Shots unit, part of the Prescott Fire Department, is the deadliest blow to firefighters since the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center on 9/11, and the worst tragedy from a wildlife fire in 80 years.

► The Government Accountability Office (GAO) says the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has a flawed program for privately screening passengers at airports, but the TSA asserts that the program is working well. The GAO found that at five airports, there were incomplete or inaccurate forms from the TSA asking for permission to hire private screeners under the Screening Partnership Program (SPP). According to a report in USA Today, “The TSA has approved 16 airports, the largest in San Francisco, to contract for private screening. Participating airports say they are better able to move around screeners where needed, and it's easier to fire private workers if necessary than federal workers.” TSA deputy administrator John Halinksi says the SPP program is functioning smoothly, and that the agency will simply look at the GAO report as an area for improvement. “"TSA believes the SPP is a robust, effective and well-run program, and the (inspector general's) recommendations will help improve it," Halinski wrote in a statement.

► A number of new security laws took effect in the state of Tennessee yesterday, according to Tennessean.com. One new measure pertaining to guns in parking lots allows those holding handgun carry permits to “store firearms in their vehicles no matter where they are parked.” As local news station WBIR points out in an article, this law is taking effect “despite questions about what it means for employment law in Tennessee,” as many workplaces have rules against employees having a handgun on the premises. Another law pertaining to school security “allows school districts to let people with police training to be armed in schools.” Another new measure establishes a human trafficking task force, and a law about search and seizure “bans most warrantless surveillance by unmanned drones in Tennessee,” according to the report.

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