Systems Analysis

April 8, 2002

Systems Analysis

Consultant: New security requires more than bag, passenger screening

By John F. Infanger, Editorial Director

April 2002

SAN DIEGO - During the recent annual meeting of the Airport Consultants Council, AIRPORT BUSINESS interviewed Chris Linn, managing director of aerospace and aviation services for Lockwood Greene, based in Knoxville, TN. Linn says that as airports tackle today's security challenges, they need to look at analyzing the entire system while addressing the immediate concerns of passenger screening and explosives detection. Here's an edited transcript of that interview.

Linn's background includes working on systems integration for NASA with Martin Marietta. He is a private pilot with commercial ratings, as well as an A&P, and earned a bachelor's degree in aerospace engineering and a master's in business administration. Lockwood Greene specializes in security analysis for airports as well as design of cargo and maintenance facilities.

AIRPORT BUSINESS: A common question heard today is, What are we screening against? What are you telling clients?

Linn: Congress has mandated airports to screen all checked baggage for explosives, so of course we are screening against this particular threat. Our recommendation to clients is to build flexibility into the explosives screening system to allow for screening of other threats as well. This is where a threat and vulnerability (T&V) analysis comes into play and identifies all those things that you think could be a threat to you.

Explosives are one of the more obvious threats, but there are many other threats as well. What about the vulnerabilities of cargo and food services? Before September 11th, the concept of terrorists taking over the controls of an airplane and using it as a bomb was not identified as a threat worthy of taking a step against. The Israelis did; they locked their cockpit doors and so forth. We did not. If you had done a T&V analysis on the airplane and said, as terrorists, what can we do with this airplane, we might have hit on the idea and been able to institute protective measures.

AB: How does the installation of Explosive Detection Systems fit into the safety equation?

Linn: It's somewhat inadequate to just jump to the conclusion that if you look for explosives you've got it covered. The industry needs to employ a systems analysis approach to this problem - an integrated security systems design. What you need is an integrated solution, utilizing innovative equipment and technology together with innovative procedures and excellent training. The best explosives detection equipment alone doesn't do it without proper procedures and highly trained personnel operating the equipment. All three components of the security system - equipment, procedures, and training - must be optimized because no security system can be stronger than the weakest component.

A systems analysis approach to the security problem has the added benefit of easing the long lines and frequent delays that can be expected as a result of the increased security measures. The problem of queuing and space and baggage handling is somewhat analogous to an inventory control problem. The science of dealing with warehousing - movement and distribution of widgets and the solution - is somewhat the same technology that we would apply here. There are people and programs that are very good at optimizing flow and modeling these problems. Applica-tion of this technology in the systems analysis approach can shorten lines and dramatically increase the ability of airports to move baggage and passengers through the screening process quickly.

AB: Matching bags with passengers is a primary concern. But how are we going to handle situations where a bag raises a legitimate alarm?

Linn: When you think you have a dangerous bag you have special requirements in the system that need to allow you to shuttle off the alarmed bag to some area that is protected for further examination. And what if you get five of these bags in a row? You've got to look at queuing of alarmed bags and how you protect people from those bags; at the same time you want to have people matched to their bags. You've got to be able to bring the people together with the bags to resolve the alarm quickly.

At the same time, the system has to be designed as though you've found a bomb. It's a huge concern: What do you do with the alarmed bag in the terminal? Some people are saying just put it in a bomb-proof container and haul it off to a special place to look at it. Others say put it on the roof and have a heavy structured floor so that if it blows up it's not taking out the whole building. That leads to serious considerations as to how your airport looks and operates.

AB: Space, of course, has become a primary consideration. What are you telling airports?

Linn: Today, nothing will happen at your airport without first taking security into account. In architecture, there's a saying that form follows function. Today, security is the driver of architecture. Currently our strong-est recommendation is to hold off until the Transportation Security Administration gives clear direction. That dictates all other decisions.

From a designer's standpoint what it also means is, if you're going to deal with the explosives threat by building a whole new system, it would be good to have the vision to look forward and try and build some flexibility and extra space into the system where you could do the other screening for chemical and biological threats and threats identified by current and future vulnerability analysis. Most of these screening devices can be designed in some kind of a tunnel fashion. The biological and chemical ones can be designed along these same lines. A system with the most value is one that has flexibility for the future built into it.