Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport is the primary commercial airport for the New Orleans metropolitan area and southeast Louisiana. Spanning more than 1900 acres, with four concourses and two terminals, the airport serves nearly 8 million passengers per year. Passenger safety and security are paramount. The focal point for that mission is the airport’s new Security and Emergency Operations Center, headed by John M. Lyon, Telecommunications Manager.
Hurricane Katrina was a pivotal event for the City of New Orleans, and for the airport as well. In 2005 when Hurricane Katrina struck, more than 40,000 people were evacuated through New Orleans International Airport. The airport also served as a triage site for the injured, and a staging point for military personnel and federal authorities spearheading the disaster response. “After Hurricane Katrina, we realized that the airport had a very important role to play in disaster response and recovery,” Lyon says. “We realized that if we were to going to undertake this role, we needed to have the infrastructure and the technology to do it properly, and that’s why we built the new (Security Operations Center).”
The Security Operations Center is where dispatchers are responsible for handling everything from airport switchboard calls to every feasible emergency situation, including aircraft alerts, security breaches, fire alarms and EMS calls. The facility also houses an Emergency Operations Center to be used for command and control in the event of a disaster. Equipped with ergonomic workstations and constructed with low-maintenance finishes and material, the facility is designed to withstand 7-foot floods and sustain 130 mph winds, and in the event of a power failure can operate without commercial electricity for up to three days on generator power.
Most of the equipment in the former AVCOM center was decades old, so Lyon undertook what he calls a “forklift technology upgrade,” replacing every single system — from the CCTV system to access control — with state-of-the-art security and safety technology, including: DispatchNow computer-aided dispatch system from Tiburon Inc.; C•CURE access control solutions from Software House; fire alarm solutions from SimplexGrinnell; and video surveillance solutions from Verint.
“We really wanted to take that next step and consolidate and integrate all of these systems,” Lyon explains. “When we saw NICE Situator at ASIS, we were like, ‘wow this is it!’ For us, the immediate draw was the fact that it was a one-stop solution to consolidate all of this information for our dispatchers.”
PSIM System Goes Live
Lyon’s vision materialized in 2010, when New Orleans International Airport became the first North American airport to deploy the PSIM system. Johnson Controls, the systems integrator, worked with the vendor on the project.
Using Situator, the airport was able to consolidate information that would otherwise have taken up 12 screens on the dispatcher’s console down to just two screens.
“With technology, you have a lot of different stovepipes of information — video, access control, fire alarms, computer aided dispatch (CAD), Voice over IP (VoIP), AED (automated external defibrillator) alarms, and so on,” Lyon explains. “That can make it hard to form an overall picture of what’s going on. (The new system) enabled us to present this information to our dispatchers in a unified picture and in a real-time, relevant context.”
“It’s no different than flying an airplane,” Lyon continues. “It looks like there are a million dials inside the cockpit of an airplane, but really, you only need four or five to fly.” The Situator system is based on the same general premise, Lyon says. Situator transforms complexity into simplicity by presenting a unified view of a situation across many different inputs or systems, with real-time correlation and alerts. “My dispatchers can do 95 percent of their work just by using the two Situator screens,” Lyon adds.