Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Drunk, unruly passengers major challenge for airport security personnel

Drunken or unruly passengers are among the biggest challenges facing airport security personnel and account for the majority of emergency incidents in airports, the preliminary findings of a recent study conducted by the EU-funded BEMOSA (Behaviour Modelling for Security in Airports) consortium, has revealed.

Based on some 360 interviews of security personnel in eight European airports, researchers found that most major security infractions related to confiscation of illegal items and dealing with wayward passengers that were either inebriated or overly aggressive.

A compilation of all reported incidents shared with BEMOSA researchers showed that out of 369 events, 131 stemmed from passengers carrying prohibited articles such as knives, guns and ammunition and 90 involved unruly and disruptive people, most of whom were drunk. It was these incidents that caused the most disruption to security procedures and often staff needed assistance from co-workers or the police when dealing with intoxicated passengers.

“The results illustrate the complexity of actual behaviour in airports,” commented Professor Alan Kirschenbaum, a world expert in disaster management from Haifa’s Technion University and BEMOSA’s initiator and coordinator.

“There is a definite need to improve security decision-making abilities as there is a gap between procedures and actual behaviour when a threat is recognized,” he added. “Security decisions tend to be inconsistent as employees regard most threats as false alarms, have never faced a real threat and have pre-biased estimates of what constitutes a threat.”

The report’s findings also indicate that airport employees often do not rely on procedures or rules and more than one-third of those interviewed admitted bending the rules when the situation called for it. The interviews also revealed that employees’ concerns are not perceived to be terror related but are primarily connected to passengers.

The full results of BEMOSA’s study has been presented at a special workshop in Brussels on March 19, 2012 in the offices of DG Research of the European Commission on Rue du Champs de Mars 21.

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