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Reaching for the Sky

by Brian Sims

With the threat of terrorism on the UK mainland currently at ‘Severe’ status (meaning that a terrorist attack is highly likely), security at our airports takes on even greater significance. How might airport and airline management teams make absolutely certain all bases are covered? Kevin Cordell outlines some of the latest solutions available for realising that scenario

For the next 12 months aviation security regimes will be fully-focused on optimising screening resources and asset use, the integration of innovative technology and re-purposing existing equipment. Beyond that, security will be all about implementing new procedures to facilitate risk-based screening and decision-making.

One of the fundamental challenges faced by all security companies operating in this space is how to guarantee current and ongoing assurances that the security measures presently in place maintain the required levels of protection in order to mitigate the assessed risk. Airport operators and the airlines themselves are those best placed to gauge the effectiveness of their own security resilience, of course, but they cannot rely on regulatory inspections alone to give them assurances around performance of their security measures.

For security management to be truly effective, the process must be a continuous cycle which includes a threat and vulnerability assessment, the identification, capture and analysis of risk and the generation and continuous review of risk mitigation plans.

Indeed, risk is a dynamic arena requiring continual review against what is now an ever-changing threat landscape.

SeMS: the concept

The concept of Security Management Systems (SeMS) is one that’s familiar within the aviation sector. The idea is that:
• Security risks should be managed at the right level and overseen by Boards of Directors
• Activities should be measured to provide management information on security regime performance
• There should be people in the organisation who are accountable for maintaining rigorous security standards by dint of using the management information available
• There should be a culture that promotes high security standards throughout the company

SeMS are not a mandated process but rather an organised, systematic approach to managing security which embeds security management into the day-to-day activities of an organisation. They provide the necessary organisational structure, accountabilities, policies and procedures to ensure effective oversight.

In essence, SeMS are an assurance system for security. They enable an entity to identify and manage security risks both in a consistent and proactive manner.

Security is critically important to the success of an airport operator’s business and should be given the appropriate commitment and resource. Each operating business should have an accountable manager – usually a senior executive at Board level – with the authority to allocate necessary resources for the protection of members of the public, staff, assets and the business itself.

In many organisations, the accountable manager will appoint someone with security experience to develop, administer and monitor the system. That said, full responsibility and accountability cannot be delegated and will still rest with the accountable manager.

The development of SeMS ensures that key risks are effectively identified, mitigated and subjected to regular review.

When passengers arrive at the airport, one of the most visible aspects of the security process is the equipment used to prevent them from taking prohibited items on board commercial aircraft. The rigorous procedures involved here are, of course, completely necessary but inevitably add time to passengers’ journeys through the airport until they board their flight.

Again, the next 12 months should prove interesting. Although certain new systems are still some way from full-scale fruition, most are undergoing rigorous trials both here in the UK and across the European Union.

Of these, the more noticeable solutions at airports are security scanners and CT cabin baggage systems.

‘Gingerbread’ security scanning systems use millimetre wave imaging to locate prohibited objects on a person that may be concealed under their clothing. Millimetre wave imaging offers a superior approach for screening people compared to existing methods such as metal detectors combined with hand search. It works by bouncing millimetre waves off an individual’s skin to produce an outline image of that person’s body, in turn highlighting any concealed and potentially dangerous objects.

Images are not reviewed by an operator as these systems provide an ‘Automatic Threat Recognition and Detection’ functionality. The scanner displays an indication of possible threat areas highlighted as yellow ‘hot spots’ on a ‘gingerbread man’ image rather than showing the passenger’s actual body. The security officer(s) can then use this information to determine if a physical search is required.

In the main, this type of scanning has been welcomed as it reduces the number of invasive scans required and eliminates concerns passengers may have around privacy issues.

Further, the images are analysed within the equipment such that the millimetre wave image of the passenger is never seen, stored, printed or transmitted. On top of that, scanners are deliberately programmed such that no images may be retained.

Five-level screening process

Once passengers have been scanned and cleared, it’s then the turn of their belongings. Airport operators follow the aviation industry’s standard five-level screening process for passenger baggage, which is as follows:

• Level 1: Automated evaluation of the X-ray image by the X-ray machine
• Level 2: Operator analysis of the Level 1 image at a workstation, carried out while the bag/item continues in transit
• Level 3: A more in-depth analysis of the original Level 1 image at a separate workstation or subjecting the bag to a separate X-ray process using a different X-ray technology such as Computer Tomography (CT) scanners
• Level 4: Re-uniting the passenger with their bag/item and carrying out a manual search
• Level 5: In the event that the passenger cannot be found then the bag/item is considered a threat and dealt with

Passenger security experience

Future CT-style cabin baggage systems presently being designed for both checkpoint and checked baggage applications could be a clear choice for small and medium-sized airports desiring a single, flexible system that will provide a reliable security solution.

Kevin Cordell

Kevin Cordell

Using CT technology, the system will check to identify hidden threats and prohibited items with high precision and reliability. Such solutions afford low false alarm rates and permit better passenger throughput.

CT imaging allows the screener to see colour images of all the contents housed within a bag or tray in real time and, where the screener is able to rotate a bag’s image through 360 degrees, this means the security officer(s) can examine that bag’s contents without the need for a physical search. This should resolve threats posed by suspicious bags more quickly and efficiently.

Throughput modelling applications are available that can assist an airport’s management team to design and achieve the correct layout for its passenger security screening areas and meet core business needs.

Solutions might encompass extended roller beds in front of X-ray machines that allow passengers more time to divest items from their cabin baggage through to automated security preparation information systems for queue zones such that passengers are appropriately prepared ahead of the procedures to follow.

Kevin Cordell is Specialist Services Standards Manager at Securitas Security Services

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