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Combating the Threat of International Terrorism

RapiScan Systems : 11 June, 2010  (Special Report)
Peter Kant, Vice President, Global Government Affairs at Rapiscan Systems describes how both processes and technology are evolving to meet the future demands of screening large numbers of people and vehicles to stem to tide of terrorism internationally
The recent car bombing attempt in New York's Times Square was just the latest of more the 30 terrorist plots against the US since 9/11. On the first of May 2010, Times Square was packed with tourists and theatre goers when the alarm was raised. Following the discovery of the car bomb, the area was shut down for 10 hours as detectives took to the stage at the end of Broadway musicals to ask for witnesses to any suspicious activity. Thousands of tourists were prevented from returning to their hotels in the densely crowded district.

On the following Monday, a suspect was detained at John F Kennedy Airport in New York as he attempted to leave for Dubai. Meanwhile, Emirates Airlines said that the US authorities had removed two other people from a flight to Dubai, whilst immediate international security measures were taken to screen aircraft, passengers, and baggage even more thoroughly.

This latest attack highlighted the ongoing need for security measures that combine intelligence and police work - and that take full advantage of the new security technologies to detect potential threats. Today's security measures are mainly experienced at check-points, typically to inspect bags and people. But in the evolving world of international terrorism, future security measures must utilise technologies that can routinely screen vehicles and large numbers of people. For example, it is now possible to combine the screening of cars and vehicles for concealed threats such as explosives and weapons as they enter a public area or facility - without requiring passengers to leave their vehicles. Increasingly used, new "standoff" detection technologies make it possible to detect threats concealed in crowds of people as they move through an area.

One of the most important aspects of the future security checkpoint is that it will enhance operational efficiency (e.g. faster customer screening and lower staffing requirements) even as it improves security. It will also help the general public feel more secure and calm as they pass through strict security checkpoints rather than creating stress and confusion. Leading-edge checkpoint security designs use advanced gating and signage systems that guide people through a security checkpoint. They feature ergonomically designed people screening and re-composure areas, as well as systems that facilitate the handling and inspection of baggage. In one live airport trial in Manchester, England, the use of these types of systems, together with advanced security screening technologies, dramatically increased customer satisfaction, whilst reducing checkpoint manpower costs.

Due to the large numbers of people passing through airports and the ongoing desire to allow space for commercial features such as shops and restaurants, the security checkpoints of the future are also designed to be compact. In addition, the design will offer advanced personnel management and staff optimisation tools - technology that allows checkpoint operators to utilise the optimal number of staff, which in turn reduces the amount of physical space needed to accommodate the checkpoint.

The integration of a variety of people, baggage, and cargo screening systems with the latest software solutions will provide a comprehensive and reliable security solution. In the near future, security scanners will use automatic threat recognition, rather than images analysed by security personnel, to identify potentially dangerous items. These new systems will automatically indicate the presence of hazardous materials and contraband, including liquid explosives and other dangerous material. By adding newly developed automatic bag and bin handling systems, the general public will see fully automated security aviation checkpoints at their airports.

Traditional airport, port and border security checkpoints have been seen to provide the vital protection against would be attackers, preventing the transportation of weapons and bombs into airports and across borders. As the UK considers new methods of people screening to further improve airport security, innovative technology such as advanced X-ray machines that provide a 360-degree view of passengers are rapidly being introduced. Installing advanced inspection and screening systems at critical security checkpoints provides a first line of defence in protecting the country as a whole. Threat awareness coupled with threat detection can help prevent people like the 2001 shoe bomber on American Airlines Flight 63 and most recently in December 2009, the 'Pants Bomber', from ever boarding a plane. Government, police and security officials must be equipped with the best detection equipment available in order to combat whatever current and future threats arise.

The on-going threat of international terrorism is one that we are likely to have to face for many years. Every new terrorist threat brings new challenges. The security measures of the future not only have to anticipate and contend with these emerging threats, but need to combine the best screening technologies with advanced integrated solutions to strengthen the first line of defence.
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