With the London 2012 Summer Olympics just around the corner, a great deal has been written and said about security. Missiles on rooftops, army troops patrolling streets and 35-40,000 people involved in securing the Olympics games against worse case scenarios.
|Source: London 2012 Olympic site|
However, such faith may be misplaced. In fact, a warning red light should begin flashing. The BEMOSA Project is the main culprit: it found the reality of security decision making in airports to differ from the ideal; where bending the rules is commonplace, not trusting security technology endemic and most threats considered as false alarms. But perhaps the airport type security at the London Olympics will be different?
Let us consider this possibility. Unlike stable airports continuity, the Olympics will be concentrated in a fairly "short" time period. This might preclude the possibility of making adaptive managerial and shop-floor changes in tandem with fluid developments in the security situation.
Creating contingency plans take this possibility into consideration. But the basic flaw remains; it is designed to resemble airport security. Security managers and security employees will be expected to abide by the rules and protocols. The basic assumption built into this perspective will remain the same – engineering and logistics that treats people as simply cogs in a complex production unit. Once the reality of the Games visitors and employees behavior supersedes the carefully thought out plans, problems will arise that may not fit into the neat security protocol package.
What can we expect to happen? Again let us look at what the BEMOSA project found in airports. Long queues, frustrated visitors, over-worked security employees! But more importantly we will see how front line 'shop floor' employees will soon be adapting to the situations; yes! Bending and breaking the rules. Finding solutions and implementing them on the spot. These security employees face reality and are forced to make on the spot assessments given the many constraints they face; in particular the actual behavior of visitors facing them at security checks.
This will not likely be the case for security managers as their task is to uphold the administrative rules and regulations. This may breed a situation where there will likely be a gap between their perception of what is happening "on the ground" and the 'shop floor' employees understanding. This also fits in nicely with one of the many findings of BEMOSA, namely that the most frequent complaint of 'shop-floor' security employees is that managers do not listen to their suggestions about what "really" happens and especially their proposed solutions.
If airport security models are the basis for the Olympic Games security, senior security managers should be well advised of what to expect. You simply cannot control either security employees or visitors behavior by the imposition of a rule framework that does not take into account the 'human factor'.
*The writer is the initiator and coordinator of BEMOSA (Behavioral Modeling of Security in Airports).