A Monumental Task

Lady Liberty gets a post-9/11 makeover

One of the most chilling aspects of the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon was the terrorists’ choice of targets: facilities that represent the pinnacle of U.S. security and prosperity. Striking a blow to two such important icons was a frighteningly effective way for the extremists to make their point.

Since then, the need to protect U.S. monuments—and other important American symbols—has become increasingly clear.

“The events of 9/11 have really changed how people all over the world conduct their business,” said Capt. Charles Guddemi of the U.S. Park Police, which provides law enforcement to areas within the National Park Service. “There seems to be a higher demand for monument security today.”

One of the nation’s highest-profile monuments has always been the Statue of Liberty, which, over the last few years, has been experiencing a major security upgrade.

Land of Liberty
The Statue of Liberty is the classic symbol of American ideals—brazenly illustrating the importance of freedom in the United States. It is, in essence, a symbol of what many terrorists seem to hate about America.

“The Statue of Liberty is probably the most visible American icon,” Guddemi said. “She continues to be the world’s greatest symbol of freedom. Pretty much as a result of 9/11, we went under a few different security assessments [at the statue], and we knew we needed to improve some of the ways we conducted our security.”

NPS teamed up with ICx Technologies to provide various security upgrades to both Liberty and Ellis islands. ICx is an Arlington, Va.-based developer of advanced sensor technologies for homeland security, force protection and commercial applications.

Liberty Island and Ellis Island are linked by the Statue of Liberty tours. Tourists board tour boats at Liberty State Park in New Jersey and Battery Park in Manhattan, then visit both Liberty Island, where the statue is located, and Ellis Island, the famous stop that was the processing point for millions of immigrants upon their arrival in America. The island is now home to the Ellis Island Immigration Museum, a popular historical site.

Best of the Best
Christopher Falkiewicz, senior manager of sales engineering at ICx and the program manager at the Statue of Liberty site, said ICx security products now protect visitors, staff and the facilities themselves at various points on the tour.

“Over the past 2.5 years, we’ve provided many different forms of security products and systems for the Statue of Liberty site,” he said. “In this location, the ICx products do all types of security detection. Tourists who get on the tour boats are run through checkpoints featuring a gamut of the best products in the security industry, many of which are from ICx.”

As the tour boats approach Liberty Island, they are monitored by an ICx radar camera system, which senses and tracks anything coming near the island. The system includes the ICx DefendIR pan-and-tilt cameras, which have two heads—a “visible” video camera and a thermal camera. The dual-head design is critical because thermal cameras cannot see through certain materials, for example, glass. With the DefendIR’s Vision Sense technology, the thermal and visible images can be overlaid, giving the operator the most information available from both cameras, both during the day and at night.

“You can have the thermal imaging at night, you can have a regular camera during the day and then there’s a mixed version, where you mix the thermal with the daytime camera and get more of a daytime view, even of nighttime events,” Falkiewicz said. “Even at the statue, they can use it as thermal at night or as mixed, which they use more often. And it’s really an operator function. They have the ability to select the view themselves.”

The ICx equipment at the statue also includes explosion detection, radiological and biological devices for advanced security. The company also recently installed an access control and badging system at the Ellis Island location.

Installing the new equipment at one of the country’s most popular tourist sites was a challenge itself.

“Anything we do at the Statue of Liberty presents special challenges,” Guddemi said. “She is a colossal piece of art, and because of the historic nature, the environmental issues and a lot of logistics, everything we do has special challenges there.”

Falkiewicz said closing the site was one option ICx never had.

“We basically had to do it during off hours or early in the morning before tourists came out,” he said. “We couldn’t interfere with any of the tourist activity.”

Looking Ahead
Guddemi said having the best and newest technologies at the Statue of Liberty will always be a priority.

“The new and emerging technologies will continue to enhance our security plan and create a safer environment for our visitors, staff and resources,” Guddemi said.

Some security upgrades at the statue are still ongoing. Falkiewicz said additional ICx projects may include improved communication systems between Liberty and Ellis islands, as well as new installations in other NPS areas.

In the meantime, Lady Liberty, that iconic symbol of America, is much more secure and will continue to carry her torch for many years to come.

This article originally appeared in the September 2008 issue of Security Today.

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