CHANGING THE SECURITY FOCUS
A look at changes in airport security at MSP, Quad City Int’l
By Lindsay M. Hitch, Assistant Editor
November/December 2001Mike Haney, director of operations, MLI (left); Mark Rosenow, commander, Airport Police Department, MSP
The diverting and subsequent grounding of airplanes in U.S. airspace on September 11 was an exercise in adaptivity for airport security personnel and programs. Making the job even harder: inconsistent communication on new requirements from FAA to large vs. small airports, inadequate staff for increased demands, and the struggle to coordinate effective security tactics.
"We went at least two days without any official notification from
FAA as to what’s going on," says Mike Haney, director of operations
at the Quad City International Airport in Moline, IL. "We heard from
the news when it started and then from the air traffic control tower that
planes were coming in.
"Now, I realize the FAA had their hands full, and it’s certainly a big job they’ve never done before, but ... there were never any definite instructions."
Increasing terminal and aircraft security has led to new mandates on what’s allowed in concessions areas.
Bonnie Wilson, vice president of airport facilities and services for Airports Council International - North America (ACI-NA), says that airport concessions are under a system-wide mandate restricting knives. There are a few exceptions, Wilson explains. "If an employee has a demonstrated need for a bladed instrument beyond screening it can be accommodated, but otherwise it is prohibited nationwide."
The Quad City Airport’s main restaurant and retail shop are located landside, reducing the threat of items from airside concessions jeopardizing airport and aircraft security. Haney says that plastic knives are allowed in the airside deli, and special care has been taken to reduce the need for metal blades in the deli’s kitchen.
The public safety department at the Quad
City Airport handles fire protection and law enforcement support. On a
typical day, three or four officers would be on duty, says Haney. And
two of those officers are responsible for a "three-minute" fire
truck, making them unavailable for other duties.
According to Haney, FAA has asked the airport for two or three officers stationed on the curb to monitor cars, one near the screening checkpoint, one walking through the lobby, one walking through the concourse, increased patrols around the airport, and more law enforcement personnel on the ramp.
"It’s just so difficult to try to have [a law enforcement officer] present in as many places as they’re asking when you’re a small airport like we are," says Haney. Office and field maintenance staff have been recruited to monitor the curb and other areas for the time-being.
Mark Rosenow, commander of the Airport Police Department at the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport, says that the airport reverted to "Incident Command’ shortly after the terrorist attacks.
"Off-duty personnel were recalled; vacations and days off were cancelled. Police officers were put on 12-hour shifts. An increase in uniform presence was quickly achieved through the use of police investigators who normally work in plainclothes. Additional uniformed personnel were assigned to the front of the terminal, the ticketing area, and screening checkpoints. Firefighters also increased their presence in the terminals," says Rosenow.
Rosenow says that FAA issued new emergency amendments and security directives nearly every day. As the airport security coordinator, it was his responsibility to see those directives put into effect. The Airport Security Consortium, which normally meets once per quarter, met every day in the days following September 11.
The Minneapolis Airports Commission (MAC) was required to check the FBI’s watch list against its database of security ID badge holders within 72 hours, and all security identification media was to be revalidated within 14 days. Rosenow says that MAC personnel revalidated over 11,000 employee badges in six days — a process that ordinarily would take six weeks and months of preparation.
Access doors onto the Air Operations Area were reduced from 51 to seven at Minneapolis/St. Paul. And to comply with an FAA emergency amendment, says Rosenow, the security ID badge of each person entering the AOA was physically checked.
Airport parking has been a customer convenience issue for airports through the years. The goal in the past was to allow as many people as possible to park as close to the terminal as possible. With the FAA mandate to have all threats from parked vehicles at least 300 feet from the terminal building, airports are scrambling to mitigate those threats and allow passengers to park within 300 feet.
At MSP, the four parking structures are surrounded on three sides by the airport’s concourses, well within 300 feet. The airport was initially required to close two of the four ramps and discontinue valet parking. Rosenow says that the parking facilities provide more annual revenue than landing fees and their reopening was a prime concern. Through the use of barriers and new striping, Rosenow reports that 80 percent of ramp space is now available for use.
Bonnie Wilson, vice president of airport facilities and services for Airports Council International - North America (ACI-NA), says the first step in regaining parking space is determining the potential harm from a blast — how much energy would have to be transmitted from the site of the charge to the building to cause damage. There are quite a few options for threat mitigation, including changing terminal building materials, reinforcing glass, and building blast barriers. Wilson warns that with blast barriers, it is important to know in which direction the barriers would redirect the force and energy of a blast. Another alternative would be establishing inspection procedures to ensure that cars within 300 feet of the terminal do not contain any explosives, says Wilson.
THE WAITING GAME
For Haney, the biggest inconvenience is not knowing how much longer the period of uncertainty will last. Prior to September 11, Haney had been planning to attend an October briefing on the new FAR Parts 107/108. Subsequently, those meetings were cancelled and Haney remains uncertain about the requirements of those regulations as well.
"We don’t know what they’re going to do. Zero tolerance comes with a high price, and I guess we’re going to find out what that price is," says Haney.
Wilson says that FAA will have to make a decision to keep or scrap the new Parts 107/108 by November 14, the date the regulations go into effect. She expects that FAA will keep the new regulations but will alter some of the implementation timelines included in the documents. For instance, the deadline for the requirement to retrain the airport security coordinator (ASC) may be moved forward, while other requirements may be pushed back.