Road Warriors Want Increased Security

Transportation security probably receives the highest profile media attention of any industry in the country. It’s at the front gate of airport travel, and there’s a lot of people flying around the country these days. In fact, I’ve been a little critical of checkpoints in the past; now I’m rethinking my security opinions.

Case in point comes from Barclaycard Business, who for the past 12 years has conducted a business travel survey. The company is located in the United Kingdom and recently examined responses from British executives about their perception of transportation security.

Despite an increased media focus on international security, today’s business travelers feel safe when traveling. In fact, 91 percent indicated they feel safe on business travel, due mostly to the existing security measures in place at points of departure, such as airports.

“These results confirm that while security is a key concern for business travelers, British executives on the whole welcome increased measures put in place by governments and organizations,” said Denise Leleux, director of commercial cards at Barclaycard Business. “The business traveler is by necessity quite resilient and continues to travel despite international security concerns, as the increase in travel this year has demonstrated.”

I couldn’t agree more. Airplanes are full and security lines are jam packed, and everyone is getting a second look as they approach security checkpoints and aircraft. Research and development for airport security is at an alltime high. During ASIS 2008 in Atlanta, I learned about new products that will assist in securing the nation’s airport travel points.

For example, Smiths Detection’s FirstView iSC3 security platform. This is an intelligent sensor command used on a control and communications platform that offers real-time access to controllable cameras, sensors, tracking systems and maps using any type of networked PC, including wireless laptops, tablet PCs or hand-held PCs.

What impressed me most is a conversation with Mark Laustra, vice president of homeland security at Smiths, who said the real-time access is the backbone that manages all the sensors from one area. The software ties it all together. When a sensor detects something is amiss, a camera is trained on that sight to determine the extent of the problem. The idea, at least part in parcel, is to protect the emergency responder so they know what to expect as they near the area in question.

Smiths also brings to the security table the launch of the multimode threat detector. This portable device detects a range of explosives, even those most commonly used in homemade bombs. Besides explosives, the MMTD can sniff out chemical warfare agents, toxic industrial chemicals and narcotics and has the capability to detect peroxides used in improvised explosive devices. Application of this device works well for law enforcement or even a mailroom or an air cargo warehouse.

From the Barclaycard survey, almost half of the respondents (48 percent) said they would like to see enhanced measures on other forms of transport, and nearly 80 percent of respondents felt that security on the United Kingdom’s national rail system could be improved. By contrast, only 9 percent feel that further protective measures should be introduced to the London Underground.

We don’t hear much about rail transportation in the United States, but security is alive and well there too. Amtrak is interconnected at thousands of points covering nearly 21,000 miles nationwide and has in place numerous behind-the-scenes and front-line security measures to improve passenger rail security. These measures are conducted on an unpredictable basis.

Amtrak has its own police force, and officials have increased patrols at major stations, including patrols with K-9 detection teams. Mobile security teams were dispatched in February to randomly patrol stations and trains. The rail carrier also conducts random screening of passengers and inspection of carry-on items.

Amtrak officials say predictable security can be exploited, so the unpredictable rotation of mobile security teams creates surprise in their ability to deter and detect potential threats. Perhaps the one asset that Amtrak uses best is asking their nearly 19,000 employees to remain vigilant and to report suspicious activity.

Unlike the airlines, who profess to allow only two carry-on bags, Amtrak officials say they strictly enforce the baggage limits as passengers board the train.

Oversized bags should be part of precautionary checks. Barclaycard said the 82 percent of their respondents were happy to undergo a precautionary check, though 10 percent said it was unnecessary. The survey also noted that individuals at a senior level were less tolerant of security precautions, with 17 percent of CEOs suggesting that airport checks were a waste of time.

The survey revealed that older employees were more concerned about their health than with security. Younger business travelers (46 percent) were more concerned about personal security than older geezers like myself.

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

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