Are airports relying on security breaches simply not happening?
Monday, July 02, 2018
Anyone who passes through an airport terminal knows of the security measures which must be endured as part of the process of boarding a flight. It can be an intrusive, intimidating and detailed process, ensuring anyone intending to cause a threat to aircraft and passenger safety is identified before they can do so.
Stepping away from the terminal for a moment, if we look at the size and layout of most airports, you’ll soon understand that there are many more areas which can potentially pose a threat.
Take airport security fences as an example. In most cases they run for many miles around an airport perimeter. While they may be tall, strong, and topped with razor wire, could it be that airports are simply relying on intruders not attempting to breech the fence because monitoring them is so problematic?
An incident at Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson airport on June 27 highlighted how such a breach can happen, when a man scaled the perimeter fence and ran towards a Delta airliner before climbing on the wing and terrorizing passengers aboard the aircraft who watched through the windows in fear.
If this can happen at the world’s busiest airport — arguably one of the most important hubs in the world — with its 2,000 closed-circuit TV (CCTV) cameras monitoring every aspect of the operation, then surely it can happen anywhere. Can such an invasion realistically be stopped?
It is not feasible to watch every camera in real time, and while motion sensing technology exists, using it to filter out humans breaching the fence over other movement from vehicles, animals or weather is not so easy. Unsurprisingly, Atlanta does not at present have this technology installed as, I suspect, most other airports also do not.
This lends to the argument that a breach of an airport fence is something anyone might get away with if they are willing to risk it, for whatever purpose. In the case of the Atlanta man, who was reduced to his underwear by the time he had scaled the 10-foot fence and its three layers of razor wire, he was soon in the hands of the police.
But could someone with a more sinister motive pick a secluded section of fence, between security patrols, and gain access with the intention of causing serious harm?
No amount of passenger screening will stop this, and the issues surrounding perimeter and security fences is something airports need to look at more seriously in the future to eliminate such an obvious loophole.
David Pekoske of the Transportation Security Administration told the media, "We are constantly looking at ways we can make that security system better and more effective."
CCTV did pick up the breach in the Atlanta case, but was only spotted after the event. Hartsfield-Jackson’s security director said, "We’ll look at everything," following the incident, and the airport does have regular patrols of its fences around the clock, with teams monitoring different parts of the airfield.
So what else can be done to improve security in the vast expanses of airports away from passenger terminals and gates? It is an area where technology can perhaps take a lead in developing a fool-proof system for detecting breaches.
In the meantime, more elaborate fences are likely to be looked at alongside more comprehensive patrols and monitoring of cameras.
Video footage of the Atlanta incident shot by passengers has gone viral and will only help to highlight the issue.
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