We May Need to Take a Closer Look at Airport Perimeter Security

Airport permitter security is still an issue for many airports around the globe.

Several years ago, everybody was talking about the miraculous survival of a teenage boy who flew nearly six hours on a flight from San Jose, California, to Maui, Hawaii. He was not aboard the plane, no. Instead, he was in the wheel well of a jet airliner. It was one of the worst breaches of airport perimeter security in history.

 As both the relief and the furor of the airport perimeter security breach subsided, what has remained in the minds of airport administrators is the sad reality that, in contrast to the ultra-tight security inside America’s airports, airport perimeter security in the same locations leaves much to be desired. 

Airport Perimeter Security is Not a New Issue

Historically, airports have lacked perimeter security. It turns out that the San Jose perimeter security breach is but one of a long list of similarly embarrassing and potentially dangerous breaches. 

For instance, on Christmas Eve 2013, two major airport perimeter breaches occurred on the same day: one at Newark Liberty International in Newark, New Jersey, and the other at Sky Harbor International in Phoenix, Arizona occurred.

According to a CNN report: “The breach at Newark exposed a failure of a $100 million Perimeter Intrusion Detection System (PIDS) recently installed and designed to protect New York City area airports. The Phoenix fence hop was the fifth in a decade at that airport.”

CNN, reporting on the incident tells us, “When Siyah Bryant, 24, allegedly mounted the barrier at Newark Liberty International Airport, it went unnoticed for a day. On Thursday, a review of security camera footage revealed his ascent, according to Port Authority police.”

TAL Global’s CEO, Johnathan Tal, says this belated detection was alluded to in a recent interview with NBC anchorperson Brian Williams (see first video item below). Johnathan explained that most CCTV cameras installed around many U.S. airport perimeters are “investigative tools” designed for after-the-fact analysis, not as real-time detectors and protectors.

In another case, this one in August 2012, the same perimeter detection systems (PDSs) failed to deliver in New York City, where a person swam three miles from his disabled watercraft in Jamaica Bay and came ashore in front of John F. Kennedy International Airport. He then climbed a fence and crossed two runways without the PDS spotting him. He was eventually detained after flagging down an airport worker.

And More about Airport Perimeter Security:

In July 2012, a pilot named Brian Hedglin used a rug to cover the razor wire at the perimeter fence at Utah’s St. George Municipal Airport. He then climbed the fence and attempted to steal a SkyWest Airlines jet.

While none of these incidents may have created potential threats to travelers, they surely expose the relative ease with which people, even without malicious intent, can breach airport perimeter security.

Congress and U.S. airports personnel are quite aware of the perimeter security shortfalls. According to congressional testimony from Mr. Rafi Ron, an airport security consultant and former director of security at Ben-Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv, “most of our airports today are still not protected by an operating perimeter intrusion detection systems [sic]. In other terms, we don’t know when a breach occurs.”

So, what about the future? Will the multiple breaches combined with the congressional testimony prod somebody to do something to remedy the situation?

Fortunately, steps have been and are being taken to secure the perimeters of U.S. airports as well as airports around the world.  But more must be done. What many airports are now doing is having risk assessments conducted.  A risk assessment look into all types of risks in a facility.  When it comes to airports, evaluating and suggesting ways to improve perimeter security is just one of the.

Click below to watch a detailed report on the young stowaway’s odyssey and the security gaps it exposed.

More about TAL Global and Case Studies can be found here.

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