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.
Describe the breadth of stakeholders involved.
Obviously the Port Authority had to buy off on this. Thank goodness the executive management showed a lot of foresight and could recognize what I was trying to do. We have the NYPD; the PAPD; FDNY; the performing arts center; the 9/11 memorial; PATH [Port Authority Trans-Hudson rail system], because its running underneath the WTC; MTA [Metropolitan Transportation Authority], which runs through the WTC.
That’s on the site. Then you have our neighbors who are very interested with what goes on. Brookfield Properties, which runs the financial center, Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, American Express; these are very large companies that have a lot of employees and so they are concerned about what’s going to happen if people are evacuating from the WTC.
What has proven to be the most challenging aspect of this project?
As I said before, everybody understood that we had to protect the WTC, it was just educating them on the capabilities of something that has never been done before. The Port Authority Police Department has been great. They are great partners because they understand it. They know how they can use it as a force multiplier. They know how it works. The Fire Department of New York is tremendous in how they want to look at this, and the NYPD, we’re working with them as well.
How are you educating first responders are other stakeholders about SAPS?
We’re are conducting workshops with the police department and the fire departments and ask, “Out of all these alarms and all these systems, what do you want to see?” If there is a fire on a particular floor, they’ll know what alarms are going off, which sprinklers are going off, so they’ll see the progression of the fire. They’ll know that the floor above and floor below is pressurized, that the stairs are pressurized, that the pipes have water pumping into them. They’ll be able to see the fire on any cameras that are available. They’ll be able to see the evacuation going on in the lobby. One thing they asked for that I never thought about is they wanted exterior shots so they can view how the fire was working and functioning outside.
As we educate the police and fire departments, and we bring them up to speed on all the systems, they are starting to understand that this real-time information is critical to evacuating people in a quicker, more responsive fashion.
So there will be an ongoing series of SAPS workshops to educate stakeholders on its use and train monitoring personnel?
Yes, and to develop rules and develop thresholds for alarms, to refine what we are doing. Basically, what we’ve done is created a baseline. Now as we develop more knowledge of what the system can do and how we can coord
inate with stakeholders and first responders more effectively and efficiently, we’ll change the thresholds. We’ll add alarms, we’ll add cameras. This can all be done very simply with the single-rules engine.
In the wake of 9/11, the government spent billions on radiological and biological detection, biometrics and other technologies. Are the fruits of some that R&D funding being implemented at the WTC?
Absolutely. We’ve gotten a lot of help from DHS on modeling and on sensors. We had numerous workshops with DHS personnel, experts in the field of chemical, biological and radiological protection. We looked at how we can best optimize the system, how to leverage the technology that was available, and what’s going to be available when the system is operational versus right now. If I go out and procure a senor today, it might not be top of the line when we’re ready to open up. So we have to take a look at sensors with an eye toward the future and make sure that we have the best technology available going forward. We’ve gotten a lot of critical help from DHS.
Do your risk assessment plans suggest what type of attack might be most likely if terrorists were to strike the WTC?
We can only prepare for what we’ve seen historically. We know terrorists use different types of improvised explosive devices. We know the active shooter scenario such as in Mumbai. We know that suicide bombers are in the terrorist’s arsenal. Some of these have never been done in the United States, but these are things we look at when we do our risk assessment, which is critical to the entire Port Authority. We have a very robust risk assessment process that allows us to identify relative risk between all our assets. So using the same criteria to evaluate all our assets, I know what the relative risk is between the PATH system and JFK airport. So I’m taking two diverse assets, evaluating them with the same system and understanding what the relative risk is.
With that we can prepare security project plans to implement the countermeasures. Then we can do a cross benefit analysis to see where we get the greatest reduction of risks for money invested. That’s an extremely powerful tool. We do a very robust risk assessment and we break down our assets. For example, George Washington Bridge is a facility, but as far as assets, there is the tower steel, the base, the anchors, the decks, the suspender ropes. Each of these has a different threat. So we can take a look at that, with the impact and the consequences that an attack based on that scenario, like a car bomb for instance, and develop project plans that specifically address that concern. We go into very minute details about protecting our assets.
Is there a unique security aspect to the WTC that may not have grabbed the attention SAPS has?
SAPS is a system, a component of a bigger picture. We’re going through some pilot projects now where we’re putting together behavior recognition, facial recognition and non-cooperative iris scans. It doesn’t make the big splash as SAPS, I guess, but for me that’s critical in identifying people. We really need to know when bad guys are coming into the site. With the usual analytics that are out there now, they may draw a box or there may be a change in pixilation. That’s all well and good, but now you have the capability of artificial intelligence. We have the capability to learn what’s on an image through video, and any abnormal behavior will signal an alarm. And then you have the ability to look at that person with facial recognition and non-cooperative iris scan and have a better certainty of the identity of the individual if he’s a bad guy and he’s in the federal databases.
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