On Approach

Myrtle Beach airport upgrades with AMAG’s Symmetry system

South Carolina’s Myrtle Beach International Airport serves more than 1.5 million travelers each year to and from one of the most popular golfing destinations in the United States. The airport is host to six major U.S. airlines. To accommodate the growth the area has experienced, the airport replaced its legacy security system, which was no longer servicing its needs, with intelligent field hardware and smart-card readers with bidirectional encryption.

Airport officials reviewed five security management systems in detail prior to making a selection for their new system. Based on scalability, ease of use and operation, along with the lower cost of maintaining the system, they chose AMAG’s Symmetry SMS. Airport officials highlighted how secure the system was from end to end and the enhanced video integration that the new system offered. They replaced their old analog video system with a digital system that is seamlessly integrated. The IP solution is one of the first all-digital security systems in the southeastern United States.

Identity Verification
Myrtle Beach International Airport implemented an extensive identity verification system to confirm people’s identity before allowing them onto the airport ramp. When a person swipes an access credential at a gate, a camera automatically turns and focuses on that person’s face. The face appears on the SMS screen in the command center, where a security operator can compare the camera view with the picture captured in the Symmetry software. If it matches, the security operator allows the person to enter his or her PIN and grant access.

The system has approximately 100 smart-card readers with a PIN to control access to the security identification display area, which includes the baggage belts, bag make-up, all perimeter gates, the general aviation area and access to the fuel farm.

Command Center Monitoring and Control
The airport’s command center contains two security stations with 14- and 24- inch monitors and two 50-inch LCD displays to provide a clear view of its 80-plus cameras. If a door alarm sounds, the system displays an image of the door and the cause for the alarm at the security station. If an alarm is determined to be false, it’s acknowledged and terminated. If it’s a valid alarm, the security operator will call the airport police to investigate promptly.

There are three screens in each security station. Alarms are displayed on the third screen, which is always active.

The virtual matrix allows the security operators to customize their views.

When an alarm sounds, the camera screen reporting that alarm can pop up into a larger view, making it easy to identify what is happening and allowing security operators to make instant decisions.

Cameras also are posted throughout the concourse and ticketing area. Cameras monitor the bags going through the bag make-up area and baggage claim to prohibit anyone from crawling through a door and causing a liability.

The devices also monitor escalators and steps for liability reasons, as well as all entrances to the jet bridges. Outside, cameras are located at every gate around the airfield exterior and on every jet bridge.

AMAG/OnSSI Integration
AMAG’s Symmetry SMS’ integration with On-Net Surveillance Systems’ Net- DVMS digital video recording platform provides a powerful IP-centric solution that is readily and easily expandable.

“When we want to add a camera, the only purchase required is the camera and license,” said Scott Van Moppes, IT director of airports at Myrtle Beach International Airport. “The camera can then plug into any available network port, which unlike an analog system is generally very close to the new camera location.”

Doors and cameras are powered from centralized locations and are on battery back up. In the event of a power failure, the battery back up allows the system to remain functioning until the generator kicks on.

“Running all power from a centralized location is one nice feature of having a fully digital solution,” Van Moppes said.

Myrtle Beach airport’s cameras constantly record activity. Officials installed a video server with approximately 22 TB of storage to accommodate 30 days of video storage.

“The video server provides us with all the storage we need,” Van Moppes said. “We like using a computer with attached storage rather than having to buy additional hardware equipment to accommodate our storage needs.”

Managing Threats
The airport also installed the Threat Level Manager module, which provides a simple way to change the security level of the airport, in accordance with the current threat level issued by the Department of Homeland Security, and lock down a specific set of doors with the click of a button.

“The threat level advisory is currently set at code orange,” Van Moppes said. “If the threat level changes, we simply change the threat level within Symmetry.”

Threat Level Manager provides a fast way to isolate a bomb threat, for example. If there is a threat in Terminal B, the entire terminal can be instantly locked down. Unattended luggage also can be isolated using Threat Level Manager.

With an all-digital security system, it’s no surprise the airport was interested in adding biometric technology as an additional layer of security to critical areas. Van Moppes wanted to test a biometric reader before installing them throughout the airport, so he installed a fingerprint reader to gain access to the operations center.

“We wanted to make sure they worked, and they work great,” Van Moppes said. “We plan to use them for access to the administration offices and jet bridges. The jet bridge is your last secured door between the airplane and sterile area, therefore it’s the last point of defense before someone enters an airplane.”

Unforeseen Benefits
Installing Symmetry gave Myrtle Beach Airport some surprising benefits that saved employees a lot of time.

  • Symmetry’s copy feature allowed them to add a door or gate quickly. They just copy and paste an existing gate and edit a few text boxes to add another door in five minutes. In their old system, it would have taken 90 minutes to add one door.
  • The bulk amendment feature allows them to add or delete an entire group quickly, as well as easily add or subtract a door or permissions to customize.
  • Symmetry is a true Windows-based system, which makes it easy to navigate.

A Comprehensive Solution
Johnson Controls installed Symmetry at the airport. They responded thoroughly to the RFP developed by The Burnes Group, who worked closely with Myrtle Beach Airport to develop a comprehensive security solution featuring advanced technologies that delivered simplicity of operation, enhanced effectiveness and cost-effective protection.

“We are thrilled with the level of service that we received throughout the installation process from Johnson Controls,” Van Moppes said.

The airport is in the midst of a redevelopment and expansion plan that will add a new terminal complex and renovate existing terminal facilities to better accommodate projected passenger levels. Symmetry will expand to provide security to the new terminal and supporting areas.

This article originally appeared in the September 2010 issue of Security Today.

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