At the Frontline: Miami International Airport Security Director Lauren Stover

'Airport 24/7: Miami' star discusses how she got involved with the Travel Channel hit and the challenges she faces in her job


Stover: Conflicting. My security mind and my security hat said no way; I would not support this project. But my communications hat, being that I have 30 years of experience working with news media, I felt like this was an important project based on the executive producers that approached us and their background. We completely vetted their background. I felt this was the right company for us to partner with to tell our story and to give people an opportunity to see what it’s like to run a major international airport. Most security directors, understandably so, at our nation’s airports would not support a project such as this. I felt that we could tell this story and more importantly, we can show the public how serious we are about security. And for us, that’s nothing we think we need to keep a secret. We don’t expose any sensitive security information or give away family secrets here, but we do let the public see what we do in terms of how prepared we are and what we do every day without giving away too much. That’s why we did this program, hopefully to deter anyone will ill intentions from coming out here to carry out their acts.

SIW: What’s it been like for you doing the show? Do people recognize you in public and what kind of feedback have you received from it?

Stover: For me, I’ve just been like everybody else and now I’ve been kind of put out there for people to see and I’m not accustomed to this type exposure. Quite truthfully, I’ve always been one to be behind the scenes and that’s just my nature. Even though I’ve been in charge of the media at Miami airport, I don’t go on television. You rarely see me on TV when my people are doing television interviews on the various things that happen here at MIA and we get tons of media inquiries and opportunities to be quoted or have our pictures taken or be in the broadcast media, but I just have always shied from it until this project. And now I’m getting a lot more emails from people that are first complementary towards the program and then they roll into needing help with something. They travel through MIA and something happened and they didn’t know who to contact, but now that they saw me on television, can I help them? Can I help them with a job? Can I help them find this or that? And I do, I still respond to my emails and I’m just a county employee here.

SIW: What are some of the biggest challenges you face as security manager for an airport the size of MIA?

Stover: The biggest challenge is we don’t have a crystal ball to tell us when might be the next attack, who would carry it out, when, how many are involved, and will there be any secondary incidents. That’s critical information that we could use to tell us really what’s going on in the world of threats against our airport or any of our U.S. airports. As a security director, the biggest challenge is we just don’t know what’s going to happen next and therefore we have to be forward-leaning with countermeasures to put in place to any potential threats that may or may not arise. And for us, we have to take into consideration our countermeasures for vehicle borne improvised explosive devices, possible suicide bombers, active shooters, an unruly passenger, and then we have criminal activities we have to be mindful of.

The biggest challenge here is our greatest strength and that is interagency cooperation, partnership and collaboration, working hand-in-hand in order to address the potential threats and put countermeasures in place to harden our infrastructure. An airport of this size, with this many people, unless you have a security officer posted every square-foot of this terminal building and in the airfield and cargo areas, it’s reliant upon all of the employees out there to remain vigilant, which is why we train employees in behavioral detection methodologies. We are the first U.S. airport to mandate that all airport workers take at least a one-hour course on behavioral detection because we’re big on the study of human behavior. That to us is a key indicator of someone’s intention. I know we have technology and technology is important, but technology comes and goes, however, the ability to detect anomalies in human behavior will never grow obsolete.

SIW: Aside from terrorism, what are some of the biggest security risks that you have protect against at an airport?

Stover: The insider threat. Potential criminal activities occurring by employees that work at the airport. We have to be aware of chemical, biological and radiological threats. There is domestic terrorism, the lone wolf and homegrown violent extremists. There are all kinds of bad people out there that want to do bad things. We have to evaluate what’s the threat? What’s our vulnerability against that threat and what’s a consequence for not taking action? Basically, we operate with a risk model. The risk model is associating any particular risk as a high risk or a low risk and in order for us to determine whether it’s a low risk or a high risk, we put it in that formula.

SIW: What do you believe is the biggest misconception about airport security?