WTC Security Director Details Site’s New Security Plan
Louis Barani is shaping one of the world’s most unique and challenging security strategies at the new World Trade Center. Facilitated by multitudes of stakeholders, Barani is working to provide real-time situational awareness by connecting disparate security and building control systems across the 16-acre site.
Does your emergency risk assessment plans include how people in buildings adjacent to the WTC are supposed to react during an event?
Barani: SAPS is a Web-based system, but it’s basically a closed intranet. What we’ll do is give access to the system based on need. There are different levels. There is administrative, which has access to all the alarms, all the rules and all that. There is the operational stuff, which we use in the sitewide operation coordination center, which will be manned by security people, operations people, NYPD, PAPD [Port Authority Police Department] and FDNY. They get the benefit of all the cameras and systems. Then, there are our neighbors, who will get a limited view, but they can understand what’s going on. It’s kind of like a scrolling news ticker. You have a picture of what’s going on and then you have some sort of narrative about the details of what’s going on. That’s how I envision it.
We haven’t finished developing it yet, but that’s how I envision getting information out to our neighbors so we won’t have to make 1,000 phone calls and they can understand what’s going on immediately. The first responders that are working within the sitewide operations coordination center can provide information to them so that if there is a situation, they can either evacuate or shelter in place, depending on what the first responders, police and the fire depar
tment think best applies to the situation.
Have property managers and site tenants been key players at the planning table?
Barani: Absolutely. I have to try to balance commercial viability with security. That’s a hard thing when you have a stakeholder that wants to lease space and you have all this security to deal with. I’ve been through this with a couple of the tenants we have now that we’ve signed up. They want to be sure that they’re safe, but they also want to be sure their operations are going to run effectively and, for example, that there aren’t going to be any delays in deliveries. A lot of businesses have “just in time” inventories or deadlines and things that have to be brought in.
We can’t have a security strategy that delays people from getting into the site. Security in an American city should be effective for the threats, but also seamless so that people don’t feel like they have to go through East German checkpoints to get onto the site. They feel safe and secure. They see the police; they know that there is security and they know that there are people watching over them, but they don’t feel like it’s overbearing.
SAPS was operational for the first time for the 9/11 anniversary. Was that a learning experience?
Barani: Yes, it was up and running. We had perimeter cameras and security cameras on the site. We also had the rudimentary access control system for construction at all the gates. Now that we’re done with the 9/11 anniversary, we’re going to start bringing in [other systems as they come online].
It’s a learning process every day. The critical thing for me is going to be once we bring in the other systems and we start conducting [operational] workshops [with first responders], that’s when we’ll really know the power of the system. That’s when people will really get it. Everything that we’ve talked about before has been concepts. Now, there is a working system and a dashboard and keys that you can touch, camera views that you can see, and alarms you can hear that are aggregated into one situation.
Are new uses for SAPS coming to light?
Barani: Right now the concept of the system is to monitor. But people are starting to look at, without conflicting with the authority of the stakeholders, ways to make it more effective. For example, the fire department is taking a look at being able to control some building systems. That will have to be discussed with the stakeholders and, essentially, brought into code. That will be looked at as we work our way through the workshops and fully understand what the first responders are looking for on the law enforcement side and on the fire/life-safety side.
What other technologies are you looking to implement at the WTC?
Barani: We’re looking at technology as it comes up, such as behavior recognition analytics. Instead of drawing a box around an area or looking for pixilation, it learns the activity in the area that it’s watching and then alarms on any anomalies. For example, if you have a hallway crowded with people who are different sizes and walking up and down in different directions, the system will learn that. But if someone pulls a picture off of the wall that would be an anomaly. It would be a movement or behavior that wasn’t learned and it would alarm.
We’re looking at facial recognition, which is not quite 100 percent, and pairing that with a noncooperative iris scan. In coupling the two technologies, we’ll have a better chance of identifying someone who may present a potential threat to the World Trade Center.
How would SAPS be leveraged during a hypothetical event, like an active shooter?
Barani: Let’s take a look at what happened in Mumbai. The terrorists ran in into different areas and they lit fi res. They were waiting to draw in [first responders] and then do as much damage as possible. So with SAPS, based on pulling in all the data, we would know where the fires are and we would be able to track the terrorists with video. We would be able to use all the systems, like the elevator systems, etc., to track their movements.
For example, if they set a fire, normally the fi re department would arrive on the scene to put out the fi re. But we don’t want to send a fire company into a fire when there are four guys in there with AK-47s waiting for them. The same with the police department. If the bad guys are trying to draw in firemen and police officers, let’s give them as much information as possible about what’s going on at the site before they go in. We may be able to pull up video on how many terrorists are present, what their arms are, what kind of clothes they’re wearing and other details about their identities.
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