Sea-Tac & Portland Jetport Install Automated Exit Lane Control Systems

Kathy Scott
Published in: 

If TSA has its way, the new year will bring new security responsibilities - and their associated costs - to U.S. airports. As usual, some have already mobilized resources to meet the anticipated requirements while others are taking a "wait-and-see" approach. Many are likely banking that some type of industry or legislative intervention will delay or possibly eliminate the need for investments in new equipment or additional personnel.


Project: Automated Exit Lane Security

Location: Portland Int'l Jetport

System Installed: Tyco Integrated Security

Project Cost: $415,000

Key Benefits: Expected to increase security & save $106,000/yr in personnel costs



Project: Exit Lane Breach Control

Location: Seattle-Tacoma Int'l Airport

System Installed: FlipFlow Triple

Equipment Mfg: record-USA

Total Cost: $7.7 million

Total Scope: 19 lanes at 5 exits (plus emergency bypass lanes, additional emergency egress to provide for lost capacity & additional monitoring technology)

Key Benefits: Expected to increased security & save $1.8 million/yr in personnel costs

In an effort to reduce its own budget woes, TSA has proposed shifting the responsibility and cost for staffing exit lanes back to local law enforcement and airport operations as of Jan. 1, 2014 - a move that will, in turn, stress individual airports' budgets. Not surprisingly, the American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE) sent comments to House and Senate leaders asking for the Airport Security Program amendment to be delayed until airports can identify and implement technology options to manage the change. As of early October, amid the federal government shutdown, officials had not responded to AAAE's requests.

The proposed change, however, was challenged in the House Appropriations Committee's first session in late May. The committee admonished TSA for proposing the shift and questioned whether its "emergency rulemaking" complies with the Administrative Procedures Act (Public Law 79-404). "TSA continues to collect money for performing this function from air carriers through its Aviation Security Infrastructure Fee," noted the committee, in its written report.

"TSA has unveiled this proposal without full consultation with the impacted airports," continues the report. "The committee directs TSA to work in conjunction with airport operators to assess the impact of this change and to consider delaying or at least phasing in the shift of responsibility to airport operators until affordable, effective technological solutions are certified by TSA, which may then be utilized by the airport operators to successfully staff exit lanes."

The committee put teeth in its objections by withholding $20 million from TSA and presenting bill language that would require the administration to provide a detailed spending and deployment plan for checkpoint support (along with air cargo and explosives detection equipment) within the official justification for its budget for fiscal year 2015.

Despite the harsh tone of the original committee report, many say that exit lane security seems destined to move to local airports. In the report, the committee accuses TSA of a "continued reliance upon the unauthorized, fictitious offset of increased aviation security fees and the submittal of a flawed and reckless budget proposal that would decimate critical frontline operation across DHS and substantially diminish the long-term security capabilities of our nation ..."

On the Radar

Christian Samlaska, senior manager of Aviation Security at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA), has been working on exit lane security since 2008, when he collaborated with TSA on a pilot program to address concerns about the issue. Although the TSA pilot was eventually scrapped, Samlaska and SEA stayed committed to the effort.

"We still met every week," he recalls.

SEA chose FlipFlow(tm) exit lane breach control system, by record-USA, after issuing a request for information and considering a variety of equipment vendors. The system uses one-way, glass-enclosed tunnels with automatic doors to control passenger traffic. Its scalability and success in Europe were key factors in its selection, notes Samlaska.

Automated doors with intelligent sensors allow for natural walking, so there isn't backup from travelers waiting for exit doors to open, reports Samlaska. The tunnels are also scalable to include a variety of inputs and outputs and can be upgraded with closed-circuit television for facial recognition and other security options.

"It can be controlled remotely as well," adds Samlaska, noting the importance of such an option if a lockdown is necessary.

Mark Dugo, vice president of sales for record-USA, FlipFlow, notes that the system can also detect objects left in the tunnels.

The airport's first addition, a FlipFlow(tm) Triple with three exit lanes, was built into the existing Concourse B exit area in May 2013 and proved itself over the summer. Now, SEA plans to install 16 more lanes at four other exits by July 2014 for a total cost of $7.7 million. The new equipment is expected to save an average of $1.8 million per year in personnel costs.

Numerous Options

Portland International Jetport (PWM) in Maine opted for an exit lane breach control system from Tyco Integrated Security that provides containment via doors on both ends, with a middle door to contain and secure the area. "Watcher video" and "detection videos" are integrated to alarm and capture video when a breach occurs.

Airport Director Paul Bradbury explored several different approaches with Tyco personnel at an industry conference earlier this year before PWM decided on the equipment.

Frank Pervola, Tyco's business development manager, describes the company's other main categories of systems as:

• Open Flow - Open space, with no doors. Often includes two cameras: a "watcher video" and a "detection video." The video is integrated to alarm and capture any breach, alerting security officials.

• Mantrap - Revolving doors are separated into parts and contained with only one open area. As the door rotates to the opening, the container must be fully clear before the rotation begins again.

Tyco provided three concept modifications to Bradbury and his group. Each scenario included "watcher video cameras," and "detection video cameras," developed by CheckVideo. When a threat is detected (an unidentified object moving counter to the expected traffic flow), the exit doors shut, alarms sound and lights flash. Airport officials demonstrated the installed equipment at a press conference in September.

With a total project cost of $415,000, Bradbury expects PWM to recoup its investment in about four years. Personnel costs for human surveillance at the exit would cost $106,000 per year.

As an integrator, Tyco has worked with the FAA on queue and exit security since 1998 and consulted with the TSA to provide flow-through security lane data after 9/11, notes Pervola.

Why Now?

TSA's heightened interest in exit lane security traces back to 2007, when it issued a request for information regarding "innovative ways to detect, track and contain intruders attempting to enter exit lanes." Specifically, it sought input about systems that could provide automatic notifications to airport authorities.

"There has been little attention paid to the possibility that the exit lane may provide a means for a person to bypass access-control points, circumvent the security checkpoint screening process, or introduce objects or articles through the exit lane to someone in the secured area or simply to place these objects in the secure area," noted the request.

Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) is widely credited for TSA's more recent emphasis on exit lane security. In 2010, the airport had to shut down all three of its terminals for six hours after a Rutgers graduate student ducked under a rope undetected to say goodbye to his girlfriend. Nearly 200 flights were delayed or cancelled and thousands of passengers were inconvenienced while security officials searched for the man.

The breach occurred in Terminal C, when a TSA officer left his exit lane post for 85 seconds. The airport drew an additional round of criticism when TSA officials acknowledged that investigators had to use footage from an airline's security system, because surveillance cameras at the checkpoint had failed to record the incident.

The breach at EWR prompted U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg to add provisions to the 2011 Homeland Security Appropriations Bill to increase civil and criminal penalties for knowingly circumventing airport security.

Two years later, the New Jersey airport found itself in the hot seat again when a 64-year-old British national entered the secure side of Terminal B through a security checkpoint exit. This time, the TSA agent involved was giving directions to another passenger when the man slipped past the guard. The incident came to light when the man approached an airline agent for assistance, prompting local and national critics to ask how many other undetected breaches have occurred at EWR and other airports.

Man vs. Machine

With the expected transfer of security responsibilities looming in January, airport operators across the country are assessing the best way to secure their checkpoint exits. Unlike PWM and SEA, many may be forced to post security personnel at exits due to budget or time constraints.

Equipment manufacturers note that automated systems eliminate human preconceptions that can lead to potentially serious consequences. In both breaches at EWR, cognitive biases played a role, as neither man seemed out of place given their environmental context. Although personnel training can reduce human biases, there is still a wide gap when it comes to detection of tiny objects, note system manufacturers.

For information about automated exit systems in use at Atlantic City International Airport and Kalamazoo/Battle Creek International Airport, visit and search our archives by airport name.


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