Access control system ensures airport safety
Recently, during the early morning hours, safety officers monitoring the closed-circuit television (CCTV) system at the Wichita (Kan.) Mid-Continent Airport noticed a man acting suspiciously around a luggage area. An officer continued to monitor the man as he began to leave with several pieces of luggage. Other officers from the Airport Public Safety department were dispatched to intercept him. The man was arrested as he attempted to steal luggage and contents valued in excess of $5,000.
The airport’s extensive $2 million security system also has helped to head off potentially dangerous situations. “On more than one occasion, an officer monitoring the CCTV system has noticed what appeared to be a shadow on the ground around planes parked near the ramp,” says Gary Bauer, chief of airport public safety. “By zooming in on the shadow, officers could see that it was jet fuel leaking from the plane. Fire crews were called to clean things up before we had a bigger problem.”
The 3,249-acre Mid-Continent Airport’s three operational runways accommodate a daily average of 49 commercial flights and 3,660 passengers. Included among the 38 buildings on site are the main terminal with 12 boarding gates, an air traffic control tower, a U.S. Customs facility, cargo facilities, Learjet and Cessna aircraft factories, aircraft service centers, hangars and a vocational school. About 9,000 people are employed on site.
The airport’s security system, from Sensormatic Electronics of Boca Raton, Fla., includes CCTV and access control components, one permanent guard station and a badging station. Airport security can use the system to restrict access by area, day and time, as well as to automatically lock and unlock doors at specified times.
The airport currently has 64 proximity card readers. The access control system averages about 2,000 card reads per day. All employees wear photo identification badges. The airport safety staff makes about 1,500 new security cards annually, some of which are temporary passes issued to non-staff vendors and temporary personnel. Temporary passes typically limit where and when a cardholder may access airport facilities.
All access control system activities – access request, monitor point activation, alarm, communication failure and manual door lock and unlock – are recorded and permanently archived in the airport safety building. During regular operations, all transactions are routed to a backup. Within seconds of a computer failure, total system functionality switches to the backup computer, assuring virtually no system interruption.
All alarms noted by the system require an acknowledgment by the officer on duty. Typically, two officers from Airport Public Safety are dispatched to check events. The CCTV system allows the dispatcher to view the alarm scene and give real-time information to responding officers. All access control information is routed on independent fiber optics to points where it is sent over a secure network to the host system.
The system also has alarm switches throughout the airport, including one at the security screening checkpoint. If a problem arises, an officer can hit the alarm switch, which alerts public safety officers. Cameras automatically turn to the site where the alarm was triggered.
Bauer says the system has helped his officers maintain a safe and secure facility for air passengers. He is even impressed with its ability to track missing persons. “Our officers frequently get calls on the courtesy phones from parents who have lost their children,” he says. “By using the CCTV system to locate lost kids, we have established an excellent record of reuniting families.”