Airports in Canada are regulated to meet a long list of requirements to ensure a safe and secure environment for their passengers, employees and guests. With over 25 million annual passengers and more than 24,000 people who work on Sea Island in jobs related to the airport, safety is our top priority at Vancouver International Airport (YVR). While we consider ourselves to be leaders in airport security, we are continuously looking for ways to improve our initiatives through training, education, and industry involvement.
A crucial part of promoting a culture of safety is empowering employees to be our champions – not only Vancouver Airport Authority employees but staff at all levels of the airport, whether on the terminal floor, down in our baggage hall or loading cargo on a plane. We’ve found education to be an incredibly valuable tool in this respect, integrating it into our robust airport security programme workshops, online training, outreach programmes, in-house airport signage and other initiatives. But with the 24,000 people working here having to go through numerous other trainings, it can be difficult to keep safety and security top-of-mind…which is our mandate.
Faced with this challenge, YVR’s security team started to think outside the box for creative ways to educate employees about our security programme. With the many security rules and regulations, we wanted to find an innovative way to engage staff to understand all aspects of the programme in a memorable way.
“…Vancouver’s security team started to think outside the box for creative ways to educate employees about our security programme…”
With professional filming and editing being quite expensive, and with no direct budget to work with, YVR’s Security Programs team began to table various concepts for a security awareness video series while team members stepped up to offer their own areas of expertise to assist, be it writing movie storyboards, acting, filming, and/or video editing.
Inspired by our British Columbian roots as well as our employees known appreciation for humour, whilst also embracing newer handheld camera technology, the team came up with a plan for a Bigfoot (commonly also referred to as Sasquatch) video series.
The first challenge was to procure a Bigfoot costume (ultimately found online via a costume designer working out of his home in Boulder Colorado, USA). YVR’s Senior Security and Regulatory Analyst, Andrew Boyce, offered up his own time to film and edit the videos using his personal GoPro, digital SLR camera, and home video editing software, quickly earning himself the local in-house nickname of ‘Scorsese’. Various members of the team took turns dressing up as Bigfoot.
Concerned the video series would be lacking a ‘professional’ look and feel, the team also agreed that they would prepare the viewer at the beginning of each video highlighting that the short video is “a Totally Grassroots production”.
The resulting series educates staff on important topics of the security programme but with a focus on areas that are known to cause confusion.
In the first video, Bigfoot applies for a job in the security department and, after a probationary stint, takes on the role of educating office staff to be sure they are “always wearing their passes” when at work. His efforts lead to local recognition by the airport’s very own CEO, Craig Richmond, who makes a surprise cameo appearance in the video.
Hot on the heels of the first video, the team then created a second video, “Knowing your airport pass Conditions of Issue”. Bigfoot was now being recognised for his work, while the video explains the steps and process required to get an airport pass.
Given the large size of our employee base, we first launched this series to our 500 airport authority employees to gauge their response and resulting interest in the subject matter.
With a Bigfoot video profile base now in place and with many a lesson learned, the team was able to buckle down and start creating security awareness videos for the wider employee base with Bigfoot as its star. With shorter more concise videos, the short films are now garnering more viewers as members of the airport community are also using the videos to educate their own staff.
“…not at all uncommon for airport guests to comment how their time with Bigfoot was the best part of their travel experience…”
The team is also using Bigfoot’s local notoriety by having Bigfoot walk the airport terminal floor and reward airport staff and guests for any positive actions or steps performed in the name of security. These ‘walkabouts’ are also garnering significant attention from travellers who are more than eager to ask if they can have their picture taken with the Vancouver Airport Security team’s newest member. It’s not at all uncommon for airport guests to comment how their time with Bigfoot was the best part of their travel experience.
This initiative is a prime example of how an out-of-the-box approach to security awareness proved to be an effective way to engage employees in what is typically considered a mundane topic. By finding an entertaining way to educate our employees on our security programmes, we were able to not only decrease common confusion around security rules, but also create advocates of safety, alongside Bigfoot, for Vancouver International Airport.
Greg Sambrook is Manager, Security Programs for the Vancouver Airport Authority.