Thesis: Airport Security

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Airport Security

Re-Imagining Airport Security

In the near-decade following the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon in the United States using hijacked commercial airliners, the various aspects of airport security have undergone almost constant revision and examination in an effort to keep airline passengers and the population at large safe and secure from any such future incidents. Though no other attacks or even attempted hijackings have been carried out in the years since the September 11 attacks, there have been several close calls involving people and devices that have managed to make it through several lines of security at domestic airports, illustrating the need for better -- and possibly more -- security in these structures. Sheer magnitude of a security force is not necessarily a measure of its success, however, and large forces have the potential to create other problems and complications in the safe and effective operating of a given airport.

While the safety and security of airline passengers and other individuals in the airport is of course the paramount concern, passenger/customer delays and discomfort must also be minimized in order to ensure the continued use of an airport and air travel in general. Though it would be theoretically possible to completely hand-search every passenger and every piece of luggage entering an airport and/or airplane, the extra time that this would require at even a relatively small airport would be prohibitive to most prospective travelers, and at large airports could require showing up days in advance of a planned departure. The financial requirements of such security measures would also be enormous and would need to be offset by astronomical increases in ticket price, again prohibiting travel for many. Design, then, must be undertaken from a perspective that seeks to streamline security measures while increasing their efficacy.

To this end, three major components of airport security must be examined in plans to design a new airport. Arguably the most essential of these five components is the human security force employed in an airport; decision -- making and action on the ground is ultimately the only method of combating a security breach. The overall physical layout and organization of the airport building(s) is also an essential security design feature, as is the passenger screening process which must occur prior to passengers and other personnel entering the main areas of the airport. These three components must be designed in tandem so as to remain highly integrated and responsive to each other, allowing the security system to operate at maximum efficiency. Finally, security measures for freight carriers must be examined to ensure the security not just of an individual airport, but the world population at large.

Security Personnel

The proper and effective screening, training, and deployment of the human resources in a security force is the first priority in the development of an effective airport security strategy and design. Though the rapid rate of technological development, especially in areas that are of specific relevance to security and access control, promises to play an ever-growing role in maintaining airport security, human observers are still necessary for the evaluation of technologically gathered information (Diedam 2008; Klauser 2009). Furthermore, the mere presence of identifiable security personnel is a known deterrent to criminality and security breaches.

With this in mind, the personnel involved in maintaining the security of an airport can be divided into two separate groups, each requiring their own screening process and training methods. The first force consists of the personnel members typically seen by the public policing and monitoring the terminals and other public areas in the airport, screening baggage and passengers through the use of x-ray imaging metal detectors, and random searches. The second part of the security personnel force would remain largely unseen, monitoring and analyzing information from various technological and first-force sources to determine efficient deployment of resources by identifying areas and individuals of high-risk and thereby streamlining security processes and methods on the ground (McLay et al. 2009). Preliminary screening for both sections of the security personnel force would consist of extensive and rigorous background checks, and only the applicants with the most complete and clear records would be accepted. Though this is almost certain to cause some decent applicants to be rejected, public safety concerns override any unfairness in the screening process.

For the first force, the screening process must also include minimum intelligence and physical requirements, as is standard in most municipal and county police agencies. Though training of such individuals would be more specifically geared towards airport operations and procedures, their duties are actually largely the same as local police forces, and indeed airport security has often been examined and compared to urban policing (Diedam 2008; Klauser 2009; Cate 2009). For this reason, no extra standards or methods of screening are truly necessary for this force. Training would consist of instilling standard policing techniques, including the observation and detection of suspicious behaviors and the safe apprehension and detention of suspects. Crowd control techniques in the event of an emergency would also be taught.

The second part of the security personnel force would require more extensive screening and training, as their job would be more technically (though possibly less physically) demanding. An extensive battery of intelligence and personality tests would be administered to the pre-screened applicants to ensure that they had the adequate skills, behaviors, and traits necessary for working in close spaces for long periods while monitoring input from various sources. Such monitoring would occur in a highly centralized location, which could then also serve as the command hub for the deployment of the first force or visible security personnel, creating a stronger and therefore more efficient integration between the two security forces (Diedam 2008). Shifting the focus of security from the visible presence to unseen monitoring would also be affected by this organization of security personnel, which could be beneficial to the overall efficacy of the security operation as a whole (McCartney 2009).

Training for the second part of the security force would include extensive familiarization with the technologies used to monitor activity in the airport including both hardware and software components. Standard police observation techniques would also be taught, as well as more complex forms of data analysis. The bulk of the second force's job would consist of reacting to technological/computerized analysis, however, and the deployment ad adjustment of first force personnel based on statistical risk assessments performed by computer, so an understanding of the programs used and their operation is essential.

Structural Layout and Design

Though airports are often studied as closed systems, which remains a relevant perspective when considering security designs and operations, they are also of course transportation centers, with many points of ingress and egress. Each of these entrances and exits has security needs and available remedies that are unique to that particular spot, and thus access control becomes one of the most essential security measures in an airport (Diedam 2008). There are many areas in an airport where the general public is not allowed for security reasons, and thus many doors that need to be secured in such a way that the keep people in; equally important is maintaining tight control over who and what is allowed into the airport (Diedam 2008; McCartney 2009). The physically layout of the airport must take these various security concerns into account, and can be used to separate areas both by spacing out the proximity of certain areas to others and by limiting -- and eliminating where possible -- accessible passages and entranceways from one area of the airport to another, structurally enhancing security.

At the same time, there must be ample and accessible ways to effect emergency egress from any given area of the airport, or the airport as a whole, in the event of a fire or other emergency that requires the immediate evacuation of passengers and personnel (Diedam 2008). Not only is this required by federal, state, and local laws, but a failure to provide such emergency avenues of escape would defeat the purpose of a security plan by greatly endangering the lives of anyone inside the airport. Technology has provided several ways to handle this issue, including electronic locks that can bar entrance or exit to any unauthorized individuals, but can be centrally unlocked in the event of an emergency (Diedam 2008). Such locks and other similar features allow for airport designs that are otherwise more prohibitive to movement within the airport.

With such concerns and features in mind, the most effective layout for an airport from a security perspective is that which separates as much as possible the various areas of the airport, and the limits passage between these areas. From a practical viewpoint, every airport must have a point or points of entrance for its passengers, and the commonalities of these passengers makes the centralization of this entrance point ideal. The airport, then, should have a central hub where ticketing, baggage checking, and baggage claim take place, as is already common practice in most airports.… [END OF PREVIEW]

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