From the Dust of the Trade Center Tragedy Comes Hope for Better Airport Security

When I came into my office on the last day of our magazine’s production cycle for the October issue, I had an entirely different plan for my editorial. That was before, along with the rest of the world, I learned of the horrific terrorist attack on New York’s World Trade Center and The Pentagon.

It’s Sept. 11, 2001, and, much like Dec. 7, 1941, when Pearl Harbor was attacked, it’s a day of infamy that will forever be etched into America’s collective consciousness. As I sit here writing this, amid the chaos and flood of TV reports depicting our great nation being torn apart, I am overcome with emotion, as well as disbelief, that such a heinous act of evil and destruction could have taken place.
Like many of you, as a long-time member of the electronic security community, this tragedy affects me deeply on a personal level. In addition, I was just blocks away from the World Trade Center a few days ago for ISC East, and one of the four jets hijacked by the terrorists crashed just outside of Pittsburgh, my boyhood home.

I’m upset, but it’s not just sadness and despair I feel. I am also seething with anger. Not only am I angry that there are despicable fanatics out there who would intentionally murder innocent people, but I am also outraged about the substandard security that exists at our airports. The fact is that most U.S. airports do not use advanced electronic security equipment and their security personnel is typically undertrained and inadequately supervised. In addition, often the equipment they do use is not properly maintained.

Prior to recently becoming publisher of Security Sales, I spent the better part of two decades as a traveling salesman in this industry. Every time I went through an airport, I always thought to myself how bogus the security measures were. In one particular case, I could tell the equipment in the screening area was not properly adjusted. I then informed the security personnel, who were clearly just going through the motions.

As reported in the March 2000 issue of Security Sales (see Editor Scott Goldfine’s “ADT’s Aviation Security Makes Miami’s Skies Friendlier” on page 90 of that issue), a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) audit of airport access control by airport operators and air carriers resulted in the successul penetration of secure areas on 117 of 173 attempts (68 percent) from the nonsterile (post-screening) areas of the airport. In addition, 283 of the 392 employess (72 percent) FAA testers encountered in secure areas failed to challenge them for unauthorized access.
The time has come for airports and other highly trafficked facilities to place security at the top of their agenda rather than relegating it to an afterthought, which is frequently the case. Airports and air carriers must realize that, yes, profit margins, aircraft maintenance and schedules are important, but properly maintained, high-technology security equipment, and properly supervised, skilled security personnel, are even more critical.

As electronic security professionals, it is our job to help impress upon corporate decisionmakers the necessity and urgency of optimal security measures. It is also vital that our industry’s associations get this message across to the general public. Together, we can make a difference; we must make a difference.

Although, as of this writing, the details and culprits of today’s atrocities are yet to be fully known, I hope you will join the entire Security Sales staff in expressing our deepest sympathies to the victims and their families.

The time has come for airports and other highly trafficked facilities to place security at the top of their agenda rather than relegating it to an afterthought.

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