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Ensuring the Effectiveness of Landside Security: Part I

By Kelly Hoggan

Good landside security includes well-trained and motivated security staff.

A good security plan for any airport encompasses a wide range of protective measures with the goal of keeping the traveling public safe, both while flying and while on the ground. A key security focus at airports should be on concourse or “landside” areas, which is where air travelers assemble and congregate while waiting for their flights. Concourses are busy areas, and the protectives measures put in place within them should be considered a part of any airport’s frontline security system.

Growing a Security-Minded Culture

Many airports, both in the U.S. and around the world, have large landside areas that feature departure and arrival gates as well as vendor-operated shops, stores, restaurants, magazine stands and the like. Many airport vendor employees working in those concourse areas have no access to secure areas within the airport, but that doesn’t mean they don’t also have a role to play when it comes to security.

For starters, ensuring concourse and other landside areas are protected against possible threats begins with making sure a healthy and growing security culture exists among all employees, including those working for airport vendors. Basic security awareness features knowing what to look for and just who landside employees should report any suspicious activities to when they do see something.

Maintaining Security Best Practices

Effective airport security also includes implementation and then maintenance of best practices in a variety of areas, such as surveillance as well as monitoring of public areas and detecting threats before they’re carried out. When proactively combined, those best practices will secure landside or concourse areas far more effectively than if airports just act in a piecemeal fashion or only once a threat materializes. In other words, airport security can be extremely effective in the prevention and anticipation mode, stopping threats from arising in the first place instead of simply reacting to threats that suddenly appear.

Beyond Security Screening

Airports, airlines and security organizations within them tend to focus their efforts on protecting secure areas and airliners and a good deal of attention is placed on thorough security screening of air travelers and airport employees. Effective landside security, though, considers more than just the need for screening of people, cargo, luggage and anything else entering an air travel facility.

For example, airports and their security agencies should be looking at ways to keep vehicles as far away from terminals as is both prudent and possible. Cars and trucks, most especially, can make for devastatingly effective explosive platforms. Keeping vehicles away from terminal entrances and exits, or at least limiting the time they can spend idling near them, helps to mitigate the potential security threat they can pose. It goes without saying that unattended vehicles idling near terminals should immediately be considered suspicious.

Environmental design also plays a role in protecting airport buildings such as terminal and concourse entrances. For instance, terminals and other buildings can be constructed in such a way as to incorporate impact-resistant barriers to stop hostile vehicles at defined perimeters, well away from vulnerable entrances and exits. Such barriers and bollards can even be moved and placed in other areas when and if needed, providing flexibility as well as healthy ‘stand-off’ protection.

Security Personnel

Placing security personnel near terminal entrances to monitor people coming into them also makes a great deal of sense when it’s done properly. Officers can watch comings and goings and more effectively respond to threats when they’re already at terminal entrances and non-secure ticket counter areas, after all, than if they’re called to them. In Part II of this series, we’ll examine airport protection as it’s carried out by the human personnel in security agencies tasked with keeping airports safe.

Kelly Hoggan, Founder and CEO of H4 Solutions, previously served as assistant administrator for operations at the Transportation Security Administration. In that role, he was responsible for aircraft and checkpoint security operations at the nation's 400-plus commercial airports.

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