Transportation Facilities Security
Transportation Facilities Security

May 1, 1998 12:00 PM
AC&SI Staff

Expansion of the Colorado Springs airport invites security innovation A door is a door is a door. That is true in many access control installations, but airport security applications often require ingenuity and innovation. The expansion of the Colorado Springs Airport, which is rated a top 10 airport for compliance with FAA security regulations, presented a wide-open opportunity for new security applications.

When Electronic Systems International, Colorado Springs, Colo., was chosen to install the access control system at the "airport operating area," the objective seemed fairly routine: Control access anywhere in the airport that might allow anyone access to the planes.

But as Bob Blair, sales engineer for Electronic Systems International, explains: "With the Colorado Springs Airport successfully competing with the new Denver International Airport, the usage and number of flights has grown daily over the past three years - approximately 100 flights into and out of the airport every day. We had to choose a system that allowed not only flexibility, but also growth and expansion."

The daily activity level at the airport is extremely high, with hundreds of employees, contractors, ticket agents, maintenance people and passengers entering and leaving on a 24-hour basis. The security complexities are immense. While convenience is important, speed and accuracy must be combined to accommodate the necessary security level without frustrating the business of airport operation.

Initial system design decisions included Motorola Indala proximity cards and readers and a Continental Instruments CardAccess 450 access control system that uses Smarterm and Superterm controllers.

"We decided to use readers specialized for different tasks," says Blair. "For instance, we used Indala ASR-136 extended range readers for the drive-through access gates and the employee parking lot, because they have up to a 36-inch read range. But we used closer proximity readers for places such as the bag conveyor area."

A particularly sensitive security challenge was posed by the jet bridges, the moveable walkways used to board passengers onto the planes. The jet bridge controls contain the latest state-of-the-art units from Jetways Corp., Ogden, Utah: computer-controlled "drive-by-wire" units. Each unit comprises a combination touch screen and joystick control. Card access controls the doors leading into the passage areas, and to ensure that only a trained operator is behind the joystick driving the bridge up to an airplane, operators must be verified with two independent forms of access identification. First a PIN code must be entered on the touch screen. Then the operator's airport access badge must be read. Both forms of ID must be verified before the bridge will move.

Proximity readers also control access to the airport's new employee parking lot, completed in January 1997. Anti-passback is actively employed in the lot on a 24-hour basis to ensure that free parking for airport employees is not abused. The Continental Superterm 8-reader controller installed in the parking lot is housed in a weatherproof enclosure and connected to the access control system with fiber-optic cable. This unit is backed up with an uninterruptible power source, and lightning protection is installed on all sensor lines.

The access control system is segmented using the Superterm and Smarterm controllers - many subsystems are controlled with the CardAccess 450 system. The baggage area subsystem, for example, is a unique application. The baggage area contains doors that open to allow baggage to pass from a secure area into the unsecure baggage-claim area. Proximity readers are mounted on both sides of all doors in this area. The baggage roll-up doors and the "oversize item" claim door are also reader-controlled.

The design goal in this area was to ensure that passengers cannot stray into the secure baggage area without a baggage handler close by to escort them back into the baggage-claim area. PIR motion detectors made by Detection Systems are installed in the secure side of the baggage-claim area and wired to the Smarterm controllers. Motion indicates to the system that the area is actively manned. If there is no motion for a preprogrammed duration of time, the CardAccess system automatically generates an alarm and simultaneously activates a "camera call-up" that displays the baggage area to the system operator in real time . Other monitor input addresses located in the Smarterm notify the security operator that the baggage conveyor belts (bag belts) are running with doors open and that no human motion is being detected. With cameras scanning the area, the operator can determine whether to call airport police to secure the baggage-claim area. The bag belt system can only be secured with a valid card read, usually performed by baggage handling personnel at a reader for this purpose. In addition, if any door is forced, the door alarms locally and an automatic camera call link alerts the system operator to the forced door.

All entrances and exits to the airport operating area are controlled by readers in the CardAccess 450 system. Four-reader Smarterm and 8-reader Superterm controllers reduce hardwire requirements and monitor alarm inputs in areas surrounding the card readers. With ETL and UL listings on the controllers, the system meets the strict specifications of the airport and the FAA for electronic access control protection.

The airport will soon upgrade the CardAccess 450 system to Continental's Windows 95-based CardAccess 495 system. No hardware or wiring will need to be modified or replaced in the enhancement. The airport currently operates a network-based computer system throughout its operation and administrative offices, and the upgrade will allow operators access to the security system from anywhere in the network, provided the operator holds the proper privilege level. Also, troubleshooting time has been a concern in the past, due to the large number of doors and subsystems in the vast facility. But with the upgrade, and with computer terminals at almost all critical locations, troubleshooting time, when required, promises to be reduced significantly.

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