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WSF intends to tighten up security

Washington State Ferries intends to implement a new set of security regulations, as of July 1, designed to protect citizens against the possibility of terrorist attacks on the nation’s largest ferry system.

“When one of the larger boats is full, there are quite a few people on board,” said WSF spokesperson Pat Patterson. “There would be the potential of killing as many people as in the World Trade Center (attack on Sept. 11).”

Currently, all ferry personnel are going through continuous in-service training about security issues. This includes viewing a training video and preparing for many hypothetical situations.

All the rules have yet to be written, although Patterson said the average person will not see a difference. There are currently no plans to install airport-style screening devices. Still, passengers who board the ferry in port will not be allowed to leave the ship until reaching the other side (this rule may be subject to change for emergencies at the captain’s discretion).

The process of clearing and inspecting each vessel between voyages will continue to be strictly enforced.

Despite several scares — like one last week in which a ferry crew found a new duffel bag containing an electronic device — Patterson said she was not aware of any incident where ferry passengers were in actual danger from a terror attack.

She said the alert showed that “our training is working,” because the crew was able to quickly isolate the package and call in the proper authorities to sound the all-clear.

(As it turns out, the bag with a Palm device inside was left by a passenger. When he returned to search for the bag, unaware of the inconvenience he inadvertently caused, he “had a little talk with the State Patrol” according to Patterson.)

Patterson said explosive-sensitive dogs may be recruited to sniff out packages and people, but “they will be trained to detect explosives only and not anything else.”

All security measures, she said, must achieve a balance between offering a thorough check and providing uninterrupted service.

“Some people feel we are overreacting to this and trying to do too much,” Patterson said. “But all these measures make sense. Besides, the Coast Guard says we have to do this, and they’re in charge.”

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