Multi Layer Secure Columbus

Multi-Layers Secure Columbus

Columbus Regional Airport Authority (CRAA) oversees the operations of Port Columbus International Airport, Ohio, which manages commercial service flights; Rickenbacker International Airport, which handles cargo and passenger charter flights; and Bolton Field, a corporate and general aviation airport.

To comply with the Transportation Security Administration’s guidelines and to secure its buildings, employees, passengers and assets, CRAA conducted a top-to-bottom risk and vulnerability assessment. Because of the results of that assessment, CRAA became concerned about the reliability and serviceability of its existing access control system.

Government regulations required access control in airports, and CRAA enlisted the help of Columbus-based Security Risk Management Consultants Inc. (SRMC) to find a new security management system.

Airport officials approached the technology assessment methodically. People from the public safety department and IT airport operations and facilities, along with attorneys and a group of major stakeholders, created a committee to assess different manufacturers and their products. After meeting with each manufacturer to evaluate their software and with several end users to learn the intricacies of their systems, the committee selected AMAG Technology’s Symmetry Homeland Security Management System. The committee felt confident in the product from an IT and customer support perspective, and it was pleased with the number of integrators in the area that could support the Symmetry system.

SRMC designed the security management system for CRAA. Working with Ingersoll Rand, the company inventoried the entire existing security system, down to each door. It confirmed whether a door was working properly and whether repairs were necessary. Ingersoll Rand inventoried door hardware, and SRMC tested the door to see if it worked properly. The new access control system design included a door hardware schedule for the upgrade to more contemporary electrified door hardware. This removed electro-magnetic locks and strikes and ensured that nonfunctioning devices were repaired or replaced.

“You can have a great access control system, but if a door doesn’t work properly, the system only partially works,” said Chad Parris, SRMC senior consultant. “We address security at all levels.”

CRAA is tasked with the responsibility of ensuring the safety and security of staff, passengers and visitors, 24/7/365. According to MaryJo Holtzapfel, lead security technician for public safety at CRAA, the facility created a huge security challenge that required a cohesive multi-layered solution to address the differing needs of passenger terminal and aircraft movement areas. Each department—including administrative staff, police department, baggage and TSA—requires its own layer of security. For example, the administrative staff is permitted to access the airport’s main offices, but the baggage staff is not. While the baggage staff is allowed near the planes to remove luggage, the administrative staff is not. CRAA controls and monitors this via AMAG’s Symmetry Homeland SMS, which can integrate with Aiphone’s intercom and Verint’s hybrid video system.

An airport communication center (ACC) staffed by a public safety dispatching crew monitors the interior of the airport and all runways via the Symmetry software and Verint video system. Commissioned police officers roam the airports on foot and on Segways. Multiple vehicles patrol the outside areas of the airport, including the runways. A dispatch fire and rescue group is available around the clock, as well.

“The day-to-day alarm management is provided by qualified 911 dispatchers in a state-of-the-art communication/surveillance room (the ACC),” Holtzapfel said. “The day-to-day system management is a cohesive effort between me and the IT department.”

Public safety dispatchers monitor alarms, and CRAA police officers respond to alarms if requested. Symmetry is integrated with Verint’s video, so that when an alarm sounds and is associated with a door or area with a Bosch high-resolution color camera, the video appears on the monitor. Public safety dispatchers assess the situation and dispatch police officers, if appropriate. A clickable icon within the software allows the security officers to launch all video associated with the alarm, including before and after the alarm event.

Approximately 423 cameras are online to help the public safety dispatchers view check-in counters, security checkpoints, passenger boarding areas, parking garage, parking lots, hallways, stairwells, jet bridges, skycap drop off, departure and arrival drives, commercial drives, loading dock areas, and dining and retail areas. All video recordings are IP-based and streamed to encoders. As a result, video playback is a better recording and can be sent to a flash drive or DVD drive to play on a media player.

“The integration of the security systems with video surveillance allows us to effectively deter, detect and apprehend perpetrators before they can damage property or threaten the security of the airport and those people within the airport community,” Holtzapfel said.

Microwaves on the runway transmit signals and trigger alarms through Symmetry if anything reaches its pathway. The alarm notifies the public safety dispatchers, who can see what triggered the alarm to determine if it is authorized to be on the runway. Most often, an aircraft or service truck accidentally triggers the alarm.

“There are levels of restriction as to who can be in certain areas of the airport or on the runways,” said Mark Miller, director of engineering and estimating. “Airport security staff must know who is there at all times so they use alarm inputs in the software to make sure they are authorized aircraft or other vehicles in the area.”

Monitoring alarm inputs via the Symmetry SMS alleviates the need to post police officers throughout the concourses and runways.

The software’s mapping feature allows CRAA to map out the airport’s floor plan. When an alarm sounds, Symmetry launches a map of the area in alarm. The public safety dispatchers can see where the alarm is occurring on the map, as well as a live view on the camera screen. This provides fast identification so dispatchers can respond quickly.

Employees receive their badges at one of two badging stations. An employee’s information is entered into the system where it is uploaded via the central card handler and sent across the region. CRAA created custom scripts files to allow it to enter badging information at the head office, and then it’s pushed to the regions.

“If an associate who has access to all regions within the airport gets fired, the associate’s access must be immediately restricted across the board,” Miller said. “It doesn’t matter where they make that change, it immediately gets pushed to all regions, and it’s instantaneous.”

Meets Government Requirements

Symmetry Homeland is designed for government and military organizations that need a security management system that meets government requirements and certifications. The software meets all the necessary government requirements, including FIPS 201, FIPS 140-2, FIPS 197, SP800-116, DIACAP and FICAM.

CRAA also installed S843 Smartcard readers with keypads throughout the airport. The reader is on the government-approved products lists, which ensures the airport that its security system meets the necessary requirements. It also meets all government compliance requirements by using encrypted communications, governmentapproved products list readers and privacy- protected hardware and software.

“The Symmetry Homeland SMS is a physical access control system that allows video integration, therefore providing the most secure and cost effective way for the airport to comply with existing regulations, while allowing us the flexibility to address new regulations and mandates,” Holtzapfel said.

Threat Level Manager

CRAA implemented a threat level management module to help control access. The threat level manager allows security to be enhanced when there is an increased threat, such as when someone from the no-fly list is trying to board a plane.

At CRAA, international flights are dispatched to the Rickenbacker airport where a governing entity takes control of the security. Controlling access is governed by TSA and Homeland Security. Access levels are dependent on the current threat level declared by the Department of Homeland Security.

If someone comes up on the no-fly list, the Symmetry SMS, along with the security staff, assists TSA to ensure the person doesn’t get on a flight or in a specific area of the airport. The threat level manager can instantly change the level of security where a no-fly individual may be and isolate him or her.

Reports. Symmetry allows Holtzapfel and her staff to create custom reports needed to meet TSA and other government requirements. Reports are easy to create and distribute, and they provide a wealth of knowledge when it’s critical to know who was where and when.

Future. The security management system is always changing because the airport is continuously changing. The baggage claim area is adding more than 30 readers and more cameras. Cab drivers will soon have to obtain badges to enter the airport area to pick up and drop off passengers.

CRAA ground transportation authorities will know when a cab driver is there, and can track as a driver leaves and another takes its place. This will alleviate loitering and create a fairer business climate for the cab companies that conduct business within the airport grounds.


This article originally appeared in the July 2011 issue of Security Today.


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