SAFETY-First Philosophy Pays Off at Cincinnati Int'l

Brian Salgado
Published in: 

It's a lofty honor for Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International (CVG) to be the first and only airport with a security management plan certified under the federal SAFETY Act of 2002. But it's a designation that Chief Executive Officer Candace McGraw hopes to share with other airports soon. 

The SAFETY Act-an acronym for Support Anti-terrorism by Fostering Effective Technologies-was enacted by the U.S. Congress in 2002 to support anti-terrorism efforts. The purpose of the act is to ensure that the threat of liability does not deter potential manufacturers or sellers of anti-terrorism technologies from developing and commercializing technologies that could 
save lives. 

CVG's Airport Security Management Plan received SAFETY Act certification and designation awards in June 2011 for meeting and exceeding all current industry standards through the implementation of innovative anti-terrorism measures. More recently, the airport applied for and received a renewal award that is valid through 2020.

Project: SAFETY Act Certification & Designation 
Location: Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky Int'l Airport
Originally Earned: June 2011
Renewed: Dec. 2015
Valid Through: 2020
Insurance Savings: $25 million
Purpose of the Act: Ensure that the threat of liability does not deter manufacturers/sellers of anti-terrorism technologies from developing & commercializing technologies that could save lives

Planning for the Unthinkable
In short, SAFETY Act designation provides CVG with benefits that, frankly, no airport would ever want to leverage. If a terrorist act occurs at CVG, the airport's liability is limited to a designated amount of liability insurance that is specified by the Department of Homeland Security. Through the certification, CVG is entitled to assert the government contractor defense for liability claims arising out of an act of terrorism, ensuring the airport should not be held liable.

While it is difficult to quantify the overall savings associated with SAFETY Act compliance, McGraw notes that CVG has been able to cut back on its terrorism liability insurance. Generally, there will be a terrorism liability insurance premium savings if Homeland Security requires the airport purchases less liability insurance than previously required. CVG had been purchasing $100 million of terrorism insurance, but its SAFETY Act protection cut that requirement to $75 million. 

Notably, CVG's SAFETY Act protections apply to and/or flow down to its subcontractors, vendors, distributors and customers. 

"As you can see, from a terrorism liability standpoint, there is an advantage to doing business with CVG," McGraw says. "While we can't directly correlate increased revenues to the SAFETY Act, we believe there is a benefit in doing business with CVG vs. an airport without the protections."

While McGraw is proud of CVG's unique accomplishment in qualifying for SAFETY Act coverage, she encourages other airport executives to secure similar liability protection for their facilities. "Being the only airport in the U.S. to have this certification is not a distinction we want to maintain. Over the last six years, our staff has met with many airports and presented at conferences to encourage other airports to apply." 

Why the Hesitation?
Attorney Mareco Edwards, counsel for the Airport Minority Advisory Counsel and a principal of South River Partners, believes one reason other airports haven't pursued SAFETY Act liability protection is the time and commitment it takes to apply for certification and designation. He also says the liability provision of the SAFETY Act isn't well known within the industry. 

"It is a significant and intrusive process that almost needs a full-time person dealing with the applications," notes Edwards. "Essentially, it's a very intense review of security processes and procedures-not just on paper, but what technologies airports have implemented and how they work."

As such, he advises airports pursuing SAFETY Act certification to dedicate plenty of internal resources to the application process. He also suggests working with the federal government and third-party auditors to ensure everything is correct before filing. 

"Airports need to understand that what they're getting into is a long process that is very intrusive," Edwards warns. "You only have one shot to make a good impression; so make sure the first one is the best one."

Ongoing Improvement
Building on the renewal of its SAFETY Act designation and certification, CVG continues to integrate new technologies into its security operations. The airport was the first in the United States to install Blip Systems' Bluetooth and Wi-Fi Signal sensors and Leidos programming solutions at TSA checkpoints to identify wait time measurements in real time. 

This innovation has directly influenced TSA productivity and scheduling to ensure improved wait times, and has been adopted at other airports, notes McGraw. "The implementation is to ease the fear of the unknown for travelers by illustrating wait times on our website and at the security hall entrance," she explains. 

Security technology might even creep into CVG's housekeeping operations. Currently, the airport is working with Hipaax on a pilot program to improve response and efficiency by outfitting janitorial personnel with smart watches. An application, which originated in the restaurant industry, counts visits to key areas and alerts staff for service when pre-established thresholds are reached. Staff members receive, accept and clear service alerts all on their smart watches. The devices, however, also allow the airport to silently alert and respond to security-related concerns.


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