It was a rare double wallop for Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (MSY) earlier this year. First, Super Bowl XLVII shattered the previous record for passengers (more than 42,000 in a day); then, just days later, came the seasonal arrival of Mardi Gras revelers.
As one can imagine, there was a lot of behind-the-scenes preparation leading up to these events, especially for the Aviation Communications Center (AVCOM), the coordination hub for safety and security at MSY that is headed by Communications Manager John M. Lyon.
“The day after the Super Bowl, we had more than double our normal number of passengers,” Lyon says. “With this kind of traffic, our operations were consolidated into extremely tight timelines. Obviously we prepared by bringing in extra staff.”
There was one thing the airport had for Super Bowl XLVII that it didn’t have the last time the Big Easy hosted the Super Bowl back in 2002: the Situator PSIM solution from Nice Systems.
AVCOM dispatchers field everything from airport switchboard calls to emergency situations, including aircraft alerts, security breaches, fire alarms and EMS calls. Various security and life safety systems — video surveillance, access control, fire alarms, CAD, Voice over IP, and automated external defibrillator alarms — have been deployed to provide situational awareness. The PSIM correlates and assembles this information into a big picture. Dispatchers can instantly visualize where incidents are happening and drill down into layers of information, including building maps and video, without having to manually go from system to system.
As one might expect, the surge in passenger traffic in the days leading up to and after the Super Bowl and Mardi Gras also increased AVCOM’s workload. By one estimate, there was a 50-percent increase in high and urgent level alerts.
“Typically we’ll see more disturbances and medical calls, and with higher numbers of airplanes landing and taking off, there are more aircraft alerts as well,” Lyon says.
For example, if an aircraft alert comes into AVCOM from the tower over an emergency line, the incident is automatically logged by the PSIM. From there the dispatcher is instructed to follow a specific set of protocols based on the nature and severity of the alert. There are separate procedures for medical alerts, chemical and fuel spills, perimeter breaches and other types of security events.
In spite of the higher volume of alerts, from his vantage point in the communications center, Lyon says handling the incidents associated with the Super Bowl and Mardi Gras was ironically, quite uneventful. “(The PSIM) is making things run smoothly,” he says. “That’s what people in my position want — they want things to run smoothly.”
Integrating Business Processes and Regulations
MSY was one of the first North American airports to deploy the Situator PSIM back in 2010 (Read about the initial installation at www.securityinfowatch.com/10457170). Early on in the implementation, Lyon’s team analyzed the business processes behind every single type of incident that AVCOM handles and then automated all 90 of them in the PSIM system.
Now, Lyon says, he’s focusing on refining those business processes, so his team can work even more efficiently. For example, Lyon is planning to implement procedures for flight quarantines. “If we have a situation where someone has an infectious disease, Situator could direct the dispatcher on the proper protocols for isolating the person and getting medical teams onsite to evaluate the situation fast,” Lyon explains. “We already have those protocols in place, but now we’re creating a series of quick launches in the PSIM system to automatically guide dispatchers through the process.”
Another area where Lyon says the ability to quickly implement process changes is helpful is in keeping up with regulations. There’s a debate raging on the issue, but TSA may soon be making changes to allow small knives and souvenir sized bats in carry on luggage on planes. “If the rules do change we’ll be able to adapt our forms in (the PSIM system) quickly,” he says.
The PSIM has inspired Lyon’s staff to get involved in improving their own workflow in ways he couldn’t have imagined. “What’s happening and what I was hoping would happen is this transition where my staff could see first hand that you can do A, B and C with the system,” Lyon says. “Now, they are coming to me and saying, ‘well if (the system) can do A, B and C, why not D?’”
One idea his staff came up with was to integrate the security cameras and courtesy phones through the PSIM so when a call comes in from a courtesy phone, the dispatcher can immediately see (on a map) where the phone is located while video from a nearby camera automatically pops up on the screen. A large number of calls come in from courtesy phones each day. Most often, they’re routine requests for pages. But occasionally people will use the phones to report medical emergencies. Having a visual of the caller can provide more details about the situation. “It all comes down to better situational awareness,” says Lyon.
“It’s exciting to see how implementing this new technology has empowered my staff,” he adds. “I’m all for giving them the tools, but at the end of the day they have to figure out how to make their jobs as easy and efficient as possible, and they’re doing that. They’re coming up with great ideas and we’re implementing them.”
Yohai West is a product marketing manager for Nice Systems and can be reached at Yohai.West@nice.com. To request more information on Nice Systems, please visit www.securityinfowatch.com/10214502.