Airports Get Safety Guide

Help is on the way for airport managers looking to better protect their sites from chemical and biological terrorist attacks. A five-year joint effort by Sandia/California and Lawrence Berkeley labs has culminated in a preparedness guide being sent to thousands of airport executives and security managers around the world.

"There seems to be a real need for this kind of report, so we're glad it's going to end up in the hands of the folks out there who can really use it," said Michael Janes, spokesman for Sandia/California. "Hopefully, airport planners will find it to be user-friendly and practical, with recommendations and concrete steps that will make their facilities safer."

The 100-page document has been turned over to the American Association of Airport Executives and Airports Council International for distribution.

The Transportation Security Administration has already given the guide to its staff members at the highest threat airports and has plans to incorporate some of the new guidelines into its own recommended security guidelines documentation.

The project included simulations of biological attacks at San Francisco International Airport, which was a good test case because of its fairly typical mix of old and new terminals.

Before the new international terminal was opened, the team simulated attacks by pumping smoke into the terminal to mimic a biological attack and using a harmless traceable gas to simulate a chemical attack, to see how the agents would spread.

Many airports already have protocols in place for clearing smoke from buildings in case of fire, and the team found that some of these protocols would help in the event of a chemical or biological attack, but that others could make matters worse. Emergency response teams need to know when it is best to try to flush air out, when it is best to try to contain it and when it is best to evacuate.

The lab team also has been testing a system of early-warning sensors at the San Francisco airport that could alert emergency responders of a bioterrorist attack.

SFO has incorporated some of the recommendations into its plans, and a new decontamination vehicle on site uses special decontamination foam developed by Sandia to clean up after a chemical attack.

Berkeley Lab lent its considerable expertise and decades of experience with airflow and pollutant transport through buildings to the project. "This really gave us a huge head start in this difficult job," said Berkeley Lab's Ashok Gadgil.

Contra Costa Times

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