In the aviation community, we often talk about a layered approach to security; measures ranging from intelligence and information sharing, through to staff background checks, perimeter fences and reinforced flight deck doors. Perhaps the most emblematic layer of security is the checkpoint; much emphasis is placed on screening of passengers and baggage, staff and crew. However, with a new breed of threat from terrorists looking to attack softer targets, and the spread of radicalised individuals throughout society, perhaps a new approach to security is needed.
In the public areas of airports, where we have little insight into who is in the terminal building, screening is impractical and we rely heavily on surveillance and patrols. In the secure area of airports, there is greater control, since we know that people are either passengers or are authorised to be present.
However, many different people and organisations have access to the airside, including maintenance organisations, ground handlers, retail staff, airport and airline staff, caterers, cleaners, building maintenance and baggage handlers. Many of these people need to carry tools of the trade or goods for the airport or aircraft as they pass though checkpoints. Do we really know who every single one of these people are, and their intent?
Screening is of course very useful as a method of detection and deterrent for both people and vehicles, but it cannot hope to address all possible scenarios and threats. An additional challenge is constantly keeping background checks up-to-date, and having a reliable source of information. Even then, there is little to say that a person has not become radicalised or is being influenced by an outside factor.
A comprehensive approach to security therefore, relies heavily on people.
What is Security Culture?
One of the most valuable assets that an airport can have in terms of its security is a tight-knit community. Engendering a security culture within this community can effectively deliver hundreds of additional security resources with no additional cost.
Implementing a security culture is often seen as either something theoretical or complicated, but there are straightforward steps that any airport, airline or organisation in the aviation supply chain can undertake.
Fundamental to the foundation of such a culture is a genuine concern for security, and a desire to improve. This has to come from top-level management, and permeate down through the entire organisation. A one-day security awareness training course will have no effect if staff see it simply as an additional task, or something that makes their job more difficult. Security, like safety, has to be at the forefront of everyone’s minds.
Secondly, there has to be a clear definition of everyone’s role in security, from the security manager, through screeners, to airport operational staff, retail staff and cleaners. Security roles should be included in every job description, targets included in every set of annual objectives and part of every contract with external suppliers.
Thirdly, staff must be empowered to act. One of the key barriers to implementing security culture is either an attitude of “not my job” or “nothing I can do about it.” Staff must believe that they can make a difference, and that management will listen to them if they have something of concern to report or a suggestion for improvement.