The report, which is based on 360 interviews held at eight different European airports, found that 131 of all 369 reported critical incidents stemmed from passengers carrying knives, guns and ammunition.
Based on the interviews, BEMOSA researchers compiled a list of episodes representing different situations in which security agents were required to take a decision and act.
Ninety incidents involved unruly and disruptive people, mainly drunk passengers. These incidents caused major disruptions to security procedures as security personnel reported they often needed help from co-workers or the police when facing drunken people.
“The results illustrate the complexity of actual behaviour in airports. There is a definite need to improve security decision-making abilities as there is a gap between procedures and actual behaviour when a threat is recognized,”
“Security decisions tend to be inconsistent as employees regard most threats as false alarms, have never faced a real threat and have pre-biased estimates of what constitutes a threat,” he said.
The report also shows that the degree of trust in technology and assessing most incidents as false alarms affects rule compliance decisions. It indicates that security personal who put 'complete trust' in security technology tend to comply with rules and protocols. At the same time, those who view security technology as 'the best means to catch offenders' tend to be less compliant and more flexible in their decisions.
"From our research, it has become clear that the 'human factor' will prove to be more decisive than technology in airport security,” said Prof Kirshenbaum. "The BEMOSA Project has shown that a similar percentage of security employees don’t trust the very technology they use."
The report indicates that airport employees do not rely primarily on procedures or rules and more than one-third admitted they exceeded or bent the rules when the situation called for it. The interviews also revealed that employees’ concerns are not perceived to be terror related but are primarily passenger related.
BEMOSA’s research aims to describe real behaviour patterns in order to develop airport staff training programs for improving crisis handling and hazard reduction.
The results have been presented at a special workshop hosted by BEMOSA in Brussels on March 19, 2012.
BEMOSA (Behaviour Modelling for Security in Airports) is a Europe-wide research project aimed at improving security in airports through enhancing the capability of airport authority personnel to correctly identify potential security hazards and reduce false alarms.
BEMOSA, which is co-funded by the European Union under the 7th Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development, has developed a behaviour model that aims to describe how people make security decisions in the face of reality during “normal routine” and crisis situations. This is expected to result in increased security, reduced false alarms and increased profitability.
For information about BEMOSA, visit http://www.bemosa.eu.
Simon van Dam