Security in the Fastlane

Security in the Fast Lane

Preventing terrorism and crime are just two stops on the route to secure transportation

Transportation systems are vital to our nation’s economy, defense and quality of life. Globally, the growing dependence on transportation networks has made transportation infrastructure among the most important assets to protect. Because they are inherently open and decentralized, transportation networks continue to be prime targets for acts of terrorism, crime and other destruction—making security threats real, a quick response difficult and the maintenance of overall safety challenging.

Officials have recognized the critical need to develop preparedness strategies and deploy next-generation video surveillance solutions in response to this challenge. Cities worldwide are re-evaluating public transportation networks to prioritize objectives, policies, actions and technology that improve the security of transportation infrastructure. At airports, seaports, highways, bridges, tunnels, and rail and train stations, a common goal is evident: to minimize security threats and maximize the ability to mitigate damage that could result from terrorist attacks or other major incidents.

The Threats Transportation Networks Face

In today’s complex society, the threats to public transportation, aviation and the mass transit industry have increased sharply. Terrorists, vandals and criminals have identified these systems as high-profile targets; attacks on these facilities can cause a large number of casualties, damage to critical infrastructure and widespread panic. In recent years, these threats have translated into attacks in various corners of the globe, resulting in tragedy and extensive damage.

Today, the public transportation industry faces threats similar to those the aviation industry faced when terrorists first began targeting its planes. Over the years, the aviation industry has implemented regulatory measures and innovative security technologies to enhance safety and security. In contrast, the public transportation industry is limited in its ability to protect passengers, employees and facilities. With a lack of regulatory measures and manpower, there is little passenger screening, and most security systems are implemented to combat criminal acts and vandalism but not terrorism.

Because of this, fear of crime and terrorism among commuters and travelers is on the rise. And that cannot be mitigated without security measures, which are astonishingly poor in some instances. For example, the alarming lack of operating surveillance cameras obstructed investigation of a New York subway murder in March 2010. Less than half of the 4,313 security cameras in the subway were operating properly at the time of the attack, and, according to the New York Daily News, detectives are still unable to identify the offender.

Violence and criminal activity directed against mass transit workers, passengers, facilities, vehicles and infrastructure compromises the safety and security of transportation networks. Further, transit vehicles and stations routinely serve as a canvas for graffiti artists, costing transit authorities millions. The Los Angeles Office of Community Beautification spends more than $7 million annually for graffiti cleanup, reported Mass Transit magazine, and in 2006 Chicago spent $6.5 million on graffiti removal, according to Green Eco Services.

False litigation claims pose further challenges for aviation and transit authorities. In one instance, a mother accused Transportation Security Administration officials of separating her from her child while they were going through a security checkpoint. Surveillance videos helped refute the claim by clearly indicating that she and the child were never separated.

The mere presence of a comprehensive video surveillance system can help reduce crime and theft, prevent terrorism and safeguard passengers. However, technology solutions aimed at combating such threats must be tailored to the unique nature of transportation networks and keep pace with sophisticated terrorism while helping to prevent traditional vandalism and criminal activity.

Technology to Combat Threats

Today’s world requires comprehensive security solutions to protect airports, railways, bridges, ports and more from sabotage, terrorism, theft and vandalism. Transportation authorities are seeking advanced technology platforms such as video and physical security information management systems (PSIMs), facial and license plate recognition applications, video analytics and data analysis, and other solutions to improve operational efficiency and provide real-time intelligence to respond immediately to events. These complex video surveillance systems can help to ensure the safety and comfort of millions of travelers every day.

As a sector, the transportation industry is quickly becoming one of the frontrunners in adopting IP-based systems. Recent advances have brought forth numerous advantages, such as high-definition cameras, 24-hour remote monitoring with open-platform video management software and the ease of integration into current infrastructure and business systems.

In addition, surveillance systems throughout the transportation industry are adopting analytics. This sophisticated software can, among other things, perform behavioral and facial recognition analysis to monitor crowds and automatically identify events and suspects. This is a huge step toward proactive security and crime prevention.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the technologies transportation networks around the world are deploying.

Video Management and Analytical Platforms: According to IMS Research, the video surveillance market will be the fastest-growing segment in the transportation industry between now and 2015. This growth will evidently stem from transportation authorities’ need to deploy reliable VMS platforms to detect emergencies rapidly, notify the appropriate agencies and first responders, and initiate effective action. With an open architecture-based VMS platform, authorities can visually monitor conditions and alerts in real time, issue timely advisories, and quickly dispatch public safety and other emergency personnel as needed. Additionally, transportation authorities can capture activity reliably, comply with recording-retention requirements and export video for use by other agencies in legal proceedings or to mitigate liability and risk.

Capturing video is critical, but it is just one aspect of the overall surveillance system. Manually scanning banks of recorded video is time-consuming and ineffective. Deploying key analytics applications can help enhance situational awareness and transform threat detection from a manual, resource-intensive operation to an efficient, accurate and automated process.

Video analytics helps authorities pinpoint events and activities of genuine importance, including camera tampering, perimeter intrusion, loitering-detection, left-behind objects, equipment removal and secure-area access. Recent advances in analytics technology have provided authorities with the ability to integrate VMSs with license plate and facial recognition platforms— providing even greater detail and investigative data. As such, deploying a comprehensive IP video portfolio that addresses virtually every aspect of video surveillance—including video capture, video viewing and video analysis— enables transportation networks to use and share data more effectively.

Enhanced Awareness and Response with an Integrated Platform: A myriad of security systems and sensors safeguard transportation networks, including access control, identity management, building management, panic/duress alarms, fire alarms, elevator controls, biometric scanners, video surveillance and video analytics. These systems typically perform a specific task and operate in their own proprietary environments with virtually no working knowledge of one another and limited interactivity.

The result has been an inefficient, piecemeal approach to security. Bringing together information from all of these separate security systems to form comprehensive, well-coordinated security plans and responses to incidents requires considerable, often manual, effort. The overwhelming amount of information often makes it impossible for authorities to determine quickly how to respond most efficiently.

Some of the most effective video systems also incorporate a PSIM that synthesizes information from security, safety and building management systems. A PSIM enables users to view and analyze information to identify situations and people of interest more efficiently. It also allows first responders and outside agencies to initiate rapid, effective response. By centralizing security system planning and monitoring and providing standard operating procedures, simulations and reporting, PSIM systems enable organizations to improve the speed, efficiency and intelligence of response while reducing costs and minimizing compliance risks.

Regulating Access and Identifying Authorized Personnel: Transportation hubs can be the size of a small city, with thousands of passengers passing through each day. Most of these facilities are open 24 hours, and they guide the transfer and movement of people and goods. In such facilities, monitoring restricted areas for potential security breaches is critical to ensuring the safety of travelers and staff.

To ensure an efficient transportation environment, technologies such as identity management and access control help prevent the unauthorized movement of people within such restricted areas as control rooms, utility closets, maintenance facilities, staff lounges, baggage handling areas, concessions and catering delivery. Further, in addition to simply restricting access, these technologies can help authorities respond quickly to incidents by creating the ability to lock down certain areas or, conversely, unlock affected areas in case of emergency.

Geographic Information System (GIS) Technology: GIS enhances situational awareness for critical infrastructure. When GIS is integrated with video management software and cameras, security personnel can pinpoint first responders’ locations while maintaining a complete view of activities. Adopting GIS technologies can help security personnel make the right decisions more quickly. Ground- and water-based radar systems are also being deployed in conjunction with GIS applications to monitor grounds and perimeters, and to protect vulnerable resources. These systems help detect potential problems and emergencies and initiate effective action.

Intelligent Edge Devices: A variety of technologies are essential to ensuring a safe and efficient travel experience. In order to increase situational awareness and effectively monitor entrances and exits, passenger waiting areas and other sensitive areas, officials must deploy a comprehensive video security platform in tandem with state-of-the-art intelligent edge devices.

Integrated with a VMS platform, industry-leading encoders and decoders are key to ensuring superior imagery and optimal bandwidth usage. Deployments that feature high-definition camera technologies provide enhanced image clarity and detail while reducing the total number of cameras necessary to monitor the area efficiently. With an effective VMS, personnel can identify critical details to help facilities improve safety and security while increasing the quality of evidence gathered and reducing investigation time.

In a geographically distributed transportation environment, wireless devices can be employed to transmit images from virtually anywhere. These devices are critical to connect surveillance cameras in locations where deploying wires is cost-prohibitive or impossible. Wireless video surveillance combines outdoor wireless transmission with networked video surveillance to provide a powerful solution that overcomes challenges unique to the transportation sector, such as distance, lack of network infrastructure and inclement conditions.

A Step-by-Step Guide to Ensuring Safety

Technology is vital to ensuring safety across transportation systems; however there should also be a detailed, systematic approach to transportation security. Such a plan should work in conjunction with individual transportation networks, the Department of Homeland Security, Department of Transportation and other federal agencies to outline processes involved in preventing, mitigating and responding to an intentional disruption and ensuring the freedom of movement for people and commerce.

A quick checklist of items to consider when outlining a security plan includes:

  • Assess the security of current infrastructure.
  • Outline capital and operational improvements needed.
  • Coordinate a response plan that establishes procedures for appropriate interaction with state and local law enforcement agencies, emergency responders and federal officials.
  • Determine a strategy and timeline for conducting any needed training.
  • Determine the procedures, including evacuation and passenger communication plans, for responding to a terrorist attack.
  • Plan for appropriate backup systems to monitor the operation of the network’s critical elements.

Taking Security to the Next Level

Often considered to be among the busiest places in the world, transportation networks see thousands of people and tons of cargo coming and going in a single day. These networks represent a fundamental component of global commerce and critical infrastructure. In an economy that depends on the safe, efficient flow of goods and people, maintaining transportation security is critical to the world in which we live.

Although portions of the global transportation network have undergone heavy scrutiny as worldwide terrorism has increased, systems remain vulnerable to acts of crime and terrorism. With the advent of advanced technology and increasingly sophisticated video surveillance, PSIMs, GIS, analytics and access control platforms, authorities now have powerful tools to protect these critical assets.

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

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