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Secure Crisis Communications in Airports: Best Practices to Create Interoperable Networks

BLACKBERRY ATHOC / 01.08.16 / jlute

Electronic dataAirports serve as a centralized hub of interaction between people, organizations, technology and communities. The ideal secure crisis communications system should deliver essential information, situational awareness, real-time alerts and warnings during critical situations to safeguard passengers, employees, vendors and surrounding networks.

(This was originally published on the AtHoc blog.)

During a time of an emergency in an airport environment, it can be difficult to effectively communicate without the proper infrastructure in place. Aging communications systems, legacy technologies and incompatible systems are challenges for many airports, and the difficulty lies in economically transitioning the functionality of standalone systems into a single unified experience for all constituencies. With modern technologies that support interoperable communication, airport operators can more effectively inform their tenants, surrounding networks and broader community to coordinate a timely response during the time of a crisis.

The term “interoperable communications” is the ability for the different communications systems that organizations utilize to exchange critical information during an emergency. Interoperability has the potential to save lives and provides safety within the physical, cyber and public state. To ensure public safety on airport properties across the globe, airport emergency operators should consider some best practices, as outlined below by AtHoc, a division of BlackBerry, to improve operational efficiency and interoperable communications.

  1. Improve collaboration between public and private agencies
    One of the biggest challenges airports face is the ability to effectively communicate and collaborate throughout all the divisions. Oftentimes public and private entities from retail vendors to federal government authorities have isolated means of communication. Each airline, cargo company, maintenance business and vendor has their own organizational process, procedure and culture. In an emergency situation, these individual communication systems and relationships can put the alerting process under tremendous strain. In order to provide seamless communication, it’s essential that the entire community operate as an interconnected network. With the right communications systems in place, operators can alert thousands of staff at once, and collaborate with the appropriate personnel to handle the front end of an emergency. There are technology solutions available today that offer solutions to this challenge. See below for more information.
  1. Security Visible At Nations Airports Prior To 4th Of July CelebrationsProvide emergency response training to all airport employees, not just security personnel
    There’s an increasing need for basic emergency response training and understanding of how the airport’s emergency response program operates across the board. These various response training sessions should include all airport employees, including vendors and groups that have partnerships with the airport. Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport, for example, is looking to implement a computer-based training module which will provide all airport and contract employees a coordinated plan of what to do and when do it during an emergency.
  1. Manage control and permissions with secure failover systems
    To improve coordination between departments, airports must address how to share information internally. Control and permissions should be adjusted across the organization with access granted to appropriate individuals to ensure that the public sees necessary information at the time that they need to see it. As this happens, it is essential that security is ingrained into the system. By statute and as a business practice, personally identifiable information, confidential operational information and other critical data need to be protected and stored in secure failover systems, especially when essential details must be revealed on very short notice and to specifically targeted populations.

For more information on this subject, please view the on-demand webinar, Innovations to Address Challenges to Airport Collaboration During Times of Crisis that highlights how airport emergency operators are effectively communicating today using multiple communication modes and solutions. Listen to this webinar to hear:

  • How to optimize human and technological communication methods to address emergency communications challenges
  • Discussion of the issue of interoperability as it relates to the full spectrum of communication modes (radio, telephone, eMail, SMS, digital displays)
  • Directly from practitioners at Dallas Ft. Worth International Airport and Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport who deal with the complexities of airport collaboration during routine operations and during crises:

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