Securing our airports
Written by Chris Pinder, the British Security Industry Association’s Southern Regional general manager
Keeping an eye on all areas of an airport and ensuring that unauthorised people do not access areas they should not is mandatory. The recent incident involving the eruption of the Icelandic volcano, Eyjafjallajokull, proved just how important a role security plays in airports. With the long delays, many passengers were left waiting around airports for long periods of time and it was fundamental that airports remained on guard.
Airports already adopt various security measures such as CCTV, access control, physical security and guards and during the volcano crisis it was vital that these technologies were in place. Security would also have been used to monitor the public especially with the high volume of personal possessions on the premises not to mention individuals’ temperaments that are likely to change with prolonged delay and stressful conditions.
CCTV is particularly effective in enhancing an airport’s security and acts as a deterrent to criminals and trespassers while also monitoring activity. A specific element of CCTV, known as Video Content Analysis (VCA), is increasingly being used in airports. VCA is the name given to the automatic analysis of CCTV images, which is used to create useful information about the content. The technology can be used to detect intruders, left packages and can count the number of people entering or leaving an area.
According to research conducted by the BSIA earlier this year, the use of VCA in airports is increasing. The research demonstrated that over 60 per cent of CCTV suppliers surveyed provide VCA technology to customers in the aviation sector. In addition, these customers were identified as the third most frequent users of VCA, which demonstrates the benefits the technology can bring to the airports.
As well as using CCTV to monitor activity on the site, airports are increasing their use of the technology in baggage holds to ensure that no contraband items are being added to a bag for criminal or terrorist reasons. Ensuring the security of items carried onboard commercial aircraft combines technology with procedures for inspection and screening in the four categories of hand baggage, luggage checked into the hold, travellers themselves and cargo.
The most visible of these measures is the security checks conducted on all passengers and their hand baggage before they are allowed to board an aircraft. All hand baggage, including items such as coats, handbags, laptop computers, mobile phones and cameras, undergoes X-ray examination before passengers are allowed to enter the departure lounge. In addition, travellers pass through metal detectors or, following recent developments, full-body scanners and they may also be subject to a physical search.
The security industry is working to enhance the performance of technology for screening luggage and for monitoring the movement of bags from the check-in desks to the aircraft. The use of barcode readers to scan the labels of bags automatically links them to individual passengers at the time they board to ensure that unaccompanied luggage is not loaded onto an aircraft. Radio Frequency Identitifcation (RFID) chips can also be used for this purpose and can be particularly useful in moving freight around the airport. Tag identification and location information is instantly forwarded over a network to a host computer running software to provide real-time management solutions via powerful reporting, display, and decision and control functions. Linked assets and people can be tracked and located within close proximity, thus providing an automatic, non-invasive asset protection solution while enabling freedom of movement.
Integrating security measures
Combining CCTV with access control is useful to ensure that unauthorised people are not attempting to gain access into an area that they should not. Access control includes the use of photo ID cards, key fobs, swipe cards and PIN-codes through to fingerprint and other biometric-based technologies that grant only authorised personnel access into specific areas. A CCTV camera can monitor the access control point and in the event that someone tries to trespass, footage will be recorded by CCTV.
CCTV can also be integrated with physical security. Physical technology includes the use of fencing, bollards, doors and locks, which protect the perimeter of an airport, preventing trespassers and criminals from accessing the site. Installing CCTV and an alarm system to monitor physical measures such as a fence will provide enhanced protection because if someone attempts to climb a fence, an alarm will be triggered and CCTV will monitor the incident.
Keeping airports secure
The eruption of the Icelandic volcano, the release of the Lockerbie bomber and the attempted terrorist attack over Detroit on Christmas Day last year all serve as a stark reminder of the importance of security at airports. By applying and integrating the range of security measures that are available, airports can continue their work to prevent and deter terrorist attacks to better protect their staff and passengers.
For more information
The British Security Industry Association (BSIA) is the professional trade association of the UK security industry. Its members produce over 70 per cent of the country’s security products and services to strict quality standards. For further information, visit www.bsia.co.uk. The BSIA operates a local rate helpline on 0845 389 3889.