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Security at Heathrow Airport London

The incident at London Heathrow on Thursday 13th March, when a man scaled the fence alongside the northern runway and then ran onto a live runway demonstrated, yet again, the vulnerability of the aviation industry to attack by simple yet effective means.

Ever since 11th September 2001, there has been significant focus on the screening of passengers and their baggage, as the industry has always had a tendency to be reactive.

Yet, the reality is that aviation, maritime and rail network security screening methodologies, processes and technologies are of limited value unless one can maintain the security integrity of their operational environment. There is little point in screening passengers at a checkpoint for the presence of tubes of toothpaste in their carry-on baggage if one cannot prevent holders of fraudulent ID cards accessing sterile zones or stop, as we have just witnessed, an individual simply climbing a fence with a rucksack on his back and standing in front of a passenger jet as it prepares to take off.
Regrettably airfield incursions are not a rarity.


They are usually perpetrated by either psychologically disturbed individuals, or drunk drivers accidentally ramming their way through gates or environmental demonstrators in search of an effective, yet dangerous, publicity coup. Yet we must remember that the terrorist also likes to keep things simple and will develop a plan that will get them the best chance of succeeding. As such, the implications of a quick hop over the fence cannot be underestimated. And, in any case, security is not only a matter of counter-terrorism; it is the prevention of any criminal act whoever it may be perpetrated by.

The maritime industry has far greater experience than aviation in the issue of piracy and stowaways, the latter being commonplace. It doesn't take a huge leap of faith to acknowledge that scrupulous inspection at designated checkpoints requires equally vigilant surveillance along the perimeters of airports and seaports, let alone vessels themselves, to guard against such penetration.

With this in mind state-of-the-art technologies are available that will enable those responsible for transportation security to either prevent unlawful incursions or, at the very least, generate alarms that will enable a patrol to be deployed to counter the incursion in a timely fashion.
Fencing may not, in itself, be regarded as a "technology", yet the wide range of different options do provide the end-user with far greater control that might initially be imagined - anti-scalable (razor mesh) and electric being two of the more common solutions. However fencing can be superimposed with other Perimeter Intrusion Detection Systems (PIDS) that can either simply alarm or alarm and track the cause through surveillance cameras and sensors. When it comes to sensors the range of options is endless. The "ideal" solution depends on the operational environment and the threat level - an African airport with roaming wildlife grazing along the perimeter, periodically bumping into the fence will demand a totally different solution to an Asian seaport that might face extreme winds at certain times of the year.

Seaports and many airports require underwater surveillance solutions based on radar or sonar, whilst city-centre airfields have to ensure that the outer perimeter doesn't pose a health hazard to passers-by brushing against it. And, whatever the solution, it is always preferable to provide a decorative security system rather than further blight the landscape by erecting eyesores, however effective they may be.

Hopefully the Heathrow incident, given its high media profile and safe resolution, will spur other transportation hubs to ensure that their perimeter control measures are as effective as their screening processes.

Events such as TranSec World Expo 2008, which is the only dedicated international show to focus on security for the aviation, maritime & supply chain, provide crucial platforms to address this type of threat and many others facing the transportation security industry. TranSec World Expo will take place on the 25 - 26 June at the PTA - Amsterdam.

TranSec World Expo will host three conferences on aviation, maritime & supply chain security. One of these conferences will focus on Non-SOLAS vessels and will be held in conjunction with the International Maritime Organization (IMO).

In addition to the conferences, there will also be a series of free to attend workshop sessions focusing on innovative security technologies; such as CCTV & Intrusion Detection, Biometrics & Access Control, Passenger Screening and Baggage & Cargo Screening.

Many of the key players in perimeter security, intrusion detection, CCTV and access control will be showcasing their latest solutions at TranSec World in Amsterdam this June.