The ACI World Aviation Security Standing Committee meeting in Palma (Spain) on 7-8 June, 1999, under the chairmanship of Jim Welna (Minneapolis/St. Paul), examined contingency planning for decontamination of persons exposed to biological or chemical substances.

The initial impetus to focus on this subject was the sarin gas attack in the Tokyo subway system in March 1995. Since then, several ACI member airports have been alerted to claims that deadly anthrax contamination had occurred and, in another case, that passengers aboard a plane had been exposed to the ebola virus. The anthrax scare was determined to have been a hoax and the ebola virus situation turned out to be a case of a passenger with a less serious, non-infectious condition. Nonetheless, these events served as a wake-up call for airports and airlines to make preparations for treatment of persons contaminated by biological or chemical substances.

A major problem in dealing with persons exposed to these substances is that they must first be physically disinfected before they can be safely treated by the medical community. The disinfection/decontamination process is akin to "putting humans through a car wash" after first destroying their garments. Los Angeles World Airports have put in place a contingency plan to disinfect up to 10,000 persons who might have been exposed to biological or chemical substances. The key to this plan was the purchase of three mobile decontamination units. Information on the contingency plan is available to ACI members upon request from Paul Behnke, Director of Security at ACI Headquarters.

The Security Committee also discussed the widespread problem of breaches of security on the airport ramp, particularly the presence of individuals without ID badges or with badges obtained under false pretenses. Recent security audits by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and the success of a journalist in being hired as a temporary airline cleaner in the UK pointed out the flaws in ramp security. Committee members described a number of effective scenarios for encouraging good AVSEC practices by all employees with airside access. These ranged from cash awards for employees who identified undocumented individuals on the ramp to heavy punishment for persons who neglected to wear appropriate identification. Information on these programs is also available upon request.

Another problem which challenged airport operators was keeping a high level of vigilance among x-ray screening personnel, who are prime candidates for "repetitive tasking fatigue", a condition which can lead to lapses of concentration. (The average screener may have an entire career in which he or she actually never detects an actual dangerous device.) Two solutions to this worldwide problem were proposed. The first was the occasional insertion of virtual images of weapons and explosive devices on the screens. In airports where this technique had been used, the result had been higher employee motivation and heightened awareness. The second technique discussed was the utilization of computer-based training (CBT) as a technique for educating both new machine operators and as a continuing check on the effectiveness of security screeners. A manual for the specifications of computer based training programs which can be adapted to local levels of threat and specific local needs is available to members on request.

The Committee reviewed ACI's efforts to convince the U.S. FAA of the shortcomings of the Hatch Amendment, which would impose expensive measures on non-U.S. airports and airlines for security procedures to be used on flights destined for the U.S. Other items on the agenda were a review of trends in acts of unlawful interference, Y2K security issues and the challenges for airports in some countries of complying with commitments to screen 100 per cent of checked baggage.

(source: ACI World Report)