Friday, June 17, 2011

IATA’s ‘Checkpoint of the Future’ likely to fail

By Prof. Aln (Avi) Kirschenbaum*

Source: IATA
The concept of “Checkpoint of the Future” proposed by the IATA as a means of streamlining passenger flow is based on two erroneous assumptions which have continually been supported by airport planners and security experts.

The first is the assumption that passengers are “objects” that can be manipulated by the tenets of engineering and production processing and the second is that technology can replace humans in security decision-making situations.

Both of these assumptions have been proven wrong based on preliminary results obtained by researchers participating in BEMOSA (Behavior Modeling for Security in Airports), an EU-funded project. For one, an analysis of a broad sample of passengers revealed clear differences between men and women, those with children and those without in terms of how they perceived airport security and potential behaviors in emergency or crisis situations.

Treating passengers as an undifferentiated mass totally overlooks differences in their behavior throughout their airport “experience,” including security checks and confidence and trust in the airport management (via security employees) to protect them.

Even more startling was the large proportion of security employees who had little or no trust in security technologies, even though they themselves utilized them! Combining this fact with a similar inclination to bend or even break the rules if the situation called for it places a very large question mark over the capabilities of technology as the last word in security when there appears to be a large margin of “judgment calls” being made by security employees.

What these BEMOSA results all point to is that while engineering and technology are part of airport security systems, without taking into account the real behaviors of passengers and employees, attempts at making the airport a friendly and inviting place will likely fail.

* The writer is the initiator and coordinator of BEMOSA.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Adaptive Airport Employee - what happens when the rules don't cover the security situation!

By Prof. Aln (Avi) Kirschenbaum*

BEMOSA analysis of a field survey of European airports that entailed interviewing a broad range of airport employees has shown that some employees are more adaptive in dealing with unusual threatening situation than others. 

This is in sharp contrast to the security framework of rules and procedures that were developed to guide their actions during routine and threatening security situations. The fact that a large proportion of the total sample of respondents (75%) had never encountered a "real" security threat or believed that most threats were "false alarms" (65%) may have played a role in affecting such adaptive behaviors. Typical of responses were that such employees would bend the rules if the situation calls for it (35%), even act against orders (20%) or break protocol to get the job done (40%).

After a careful analysis of the responses it became apparent that three key features of employees' characteristics were significant in being able to adapt to "new" or "unusual" situations not covered by the numerous rules and protocols in place: these were related to a specific set of personal, organizational and social network traits. 

Of even more interest is that the proportion of adaptive employees significantly varied by airport suggesting that the organizational and/or cultural climate of each has an impact on its employee's ability to adapt to non-routine and unusual security threats. Further, given the ever changing threats and the "catching up" through reactive regulations, following "old" rules may not be the best strategy to make airport security more effective; making it imperative to enhance training so as to reward adaptive behaviors as a proactive means of dealing with the unexpected.

* The writer is the initiator and coordinator of BEMOSA.   

Thursday, June 2, 2011

BEMOSA to showcase findings at NDM 2011 in Orlando

Scientific Manager of BEMOSA Dr. Michele Mariani from the University of Modena e Reggio Emilia will lecture on "investigating security-related behavior and decision making in airports" at the NDM 2011 event in Orlando, Florida this week.

The presentation will take place as part of the 10th International Conference on Naturalistic Decision Making (NDM) on Friday, June 3, 2011, in room Boca 5, as part of the "Socio-cognitive Factors in Naturalistic Settings” session.

The session will present the initial findings of BEMOSA’s (Behavior Modeling for Security in Airports), study of European airports. By studying airports throughout Europe, the EU co-funded BEMOSA project is collecting evidence of naturally occurring security-related social decision making.

The findings will form the basis for the development of an evidence-based dynamic and realistic simulation of airport decision-making and will help deliver evidence-based training modules.

NDN brings together world leaders in research seeking to understand and improve how people actually perform cognitively complex functions in demanding situations. The NDM community represents an interdisciplinary group of researchers united by their study of human performance in situations marked by time pressure, uncertainty, vague goals, high stakes, team and organizational constraints, changing conditions, and varying levels of experience.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Jane’s: More attention should be paid to airport security function

More attention should be given to the way airport security staff function, according to a new report published by the prestigious Jane’s Airport Review, which focused on BEMOSA’s (Behavior Modeling for Security in Airports) initial findings.

The report, titled “Research seeks to boost the human factor,” indicates that the BEMOSA’s findings question many of the shibboleths of airport security.

It noted that BEMOSA proposes looking at an airport as a complex social organization.

Source: IHS Jane's
“Even a small airport comprises a number of different departments that have to work with each other, and there are outsourced workers such as caterers, maintenance staff and police [as well],” Prof. Alan Kirschenbaum, initiator and coordinator of BEMOSA told Jane’s. “The decision-making process in security at the airport is not made by individuals at all.”

Kirschenbaum remarked that existing protocols laid down by the EC for airport security contained a glaring omission: “There is not a single mention of people… in them – only technology.

“The problem is that people are neither totally rational nor logical,” Kirschenbaum added, referring to the need to establish training programs that allow enhanced decision making.

“The training program arising from BEMOSA will introduce something new in the world of social research: it will use simulation programs to generate scenarios based on real data. This rarely happens – most computer simulation programs are underpinned by assumptions about behavior,” he said.

Dr. Michele Mariani of Modena University, scientific manager of BEMOSA, pointed out in the article that the preliminary results meant that “one may conclude that there are complex social patterns taking place in airports that cannot be pictured solely on the basis of what rules/procedures/protocols/ expect. It appears that employees do not rely primarily on procedures or rules only.”

The report concluded that when BEMOSA’s final findings are released in 2012 they would probably point towards a deep cultural change in a sector that relies upon standard operating procedures (SOPs).