Since the 9/11 attacks, huge advances have been made in security screener Computer Based Training (CBT). A variety of excellent computer training programmes and simulators are currently available. The major ones include:
PRE-M is a computer programme designed to identify people who have the skills and aptitude to be effective x-ray screeners. PRE-M assesses candidates for the following:
1. Colour blindness deficiency.
2. Geometrical Pattern Recognition. (In this test, the ability to identify everyday objects displayed under x-ray conditions is assessed. The candidate is presented with a number of slides containing x-ray signatures of objects which must be identified by comparison to a photographic image of the item).
3. Viewpoint Variation. (This tests the candidate’s ability to identify objects displayed under x-ray conditions and rotated from the 'normal' viewpoint. Candidates are presented with a number of slides containing objects which need to be matched to an image of that object in a different orientation).
4. Bag complexity. (This tests the candidate’s ability to identify prohibited items within complex bag images).
5. Overlay complexity. (This tests the candidate’s ability to identify prohibited items obscured by other objects within bag images. The complexity of the bag is gradually reduced by the removal of items.
Further details about PRE-M can be seen at www.renful.co.uk
The new recruit's motivation, knowledge and job performance has to be of a high standard from the first day that he/she works on the X-ray operation. The initial training received is of critical importance in ensuring this happens. TREFOX has been developed to provide an essential introduction to Security X-ray Screening.
The programme features video, audio, photographic images, text and animation to maintain interest and enhance the learning experience. TREFOX covers a variety of subjects, from understanding how an X-ray machine works, to basic health and safety, to more complex subjects such as the interpretation of X-ray images. When a student has completed all chapters of the TREFOX programme, he/she should have a comprehensive understanding of what X-rays are, what X-rays are capable of achieving, the overall importance and purpose of X-ray security screening operations, and the importance of adhering to health and safety guidelines when using radiation producing X-ray equipment. The student will also be more familiar with terminology that he/she will use at the checkpoint. The student will also have gained valuable knowledge about a range of threat items that may be encountered in their work, including firearms, improvised explosive devices (IED’s), prohibited and dangerous goods, and many other hazardous items.
Although TREFOX is designed to provide X-ray training to new recruits with no previous experience of working within an Xray screening operation, it may also be of interest to more experienced X-ray screeners who wish to better understand X-ray technology, and managers in any airline/airport function who wish to broaden their understanding of aviation security operations.
TREFOX can be tried free at www.AvsecSchool.com
Research has shown that x-ray screeners will only recognise a threat in a packed bag if they have developed a visual memory representation of the shape, colours, density and size (geometrical patterns) that may suggest its presence. Visual cognition studies have also shown that people can best recognise an object if it is something they have frequently seen before and stored in their cognitive memory. The most effective way for screeners to develop high-level skills in identifying threats is to regularly practice on a Computer Based Training (CBT) simulator, which exposes them to hundreds of threat and non-threat items in different viewpoints, enabling them to build accurate mental models of threats. They need to recognise how the particular model of x-ray machine they use will display these objects and how to effectively use the image enhancement features.
In the past, many x-ray screener CBT systems contained relatively small image libraries, so screeners were often able to memorise the images and learn where the threat items were concealed. This meant that their test scores often improved over time, but this "improvement" was false because the apparent increase in threat-detecting ability was artificially generated. It is no longer acceptable for x-ray screeners to pass tests on sub-standard X-ray training systems. The new realities of global terrorism mean today’s x-ray operators must be truly proficient in their work. Currently, many airport x-ray screeners worldwide are trained on a sophisticated, new CBT system called SIMFOX that can produce fresh bag images for every training session, so bag images are never repeated and familiarity can’t develop. With SIMFOX, screeners usually become extremely proficient in identifying suspicious items - and their performance levels can be constantly and accurately monitored. SIMFOX is currently available for Heimann, Rapiscan and L3 Linescan X-ray systems. Other systems are currently being developed. Each system simulated presents the student with a replica of the respective X-ray machine keyboard on-screen. If required, SIMFOX can be installed to use the actual keyboard from the machine. The data acquisition and statistical analysis feature is a unique module within SIMFOX, which does not appear in any other X-ray CBT system. It allows a complete analysis of the workforce and threat item identification by categories, bag complexities, norming of bags etc.
Further details of SIMFOX can be found at: www.simfox.com
A computer software programme, known as TIP (Threat Image Projection) operates on most of the X-ray machines that screeners use every day on the job. As screeners routinely scan passengers’ carry-on bags, TIP occasionally projects images of dangerous objects like guns and explosives on the x-ray machines’ screens. If a screener does not detect a TIP image within a specified amount of time, a feedback message appears indicating that a projected threat was missed. But ‘high scores’ in detecting TIP images does NOT equate to a high probability of detecting more realistic, concealed IEDs and weapons. Research has shown that as testing gets more realistic - that is, the tests feature non-TIP images which more closely approximate how a terrorist might actually construct and conceal an IED or weapon - screeners’ performance declines significantly. So TIP is a useful tool to help keep screeners more alert when working, but it’s certainly no substitute for comprehensive training on a proper CBT X-ray simulator.