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Terrot at Airports

Brig. Gen. (res.) Avi Bachar

General – airport vulnerability

Following the unpresedent terror attack of the 11th september 2001, a great effort was done to increase the safety & security of the world wide airborne transportation.

In the USA a new governmental office was established, The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which combines all the ellements related to homeland security and terror prevention in particular.  The main attention was adressed to the aviation security, in the passenger's terminals and in the airplanes. for this purpose, human and luguages detectors were placed at airports in a short while. At the airplans a strict security arrangements were made, nes that will make it difficult for terrorists to take over airplanes and pilots.


But what about the vulnerability of the airport itself?


The goal of terrorists organizations isn't to damage airplans, on the 11th septamber they did it because it was easy to take over airplans and blow them up against buildings with a great meaning to the american nation, and the western world in general. Terror organizations are continuing to search every possible way for mass attacks on preferd destenation at the western world, but especialy they are intrested in hurting the western way of living. A massive attack in an airport not only will cuse hundreds of casualties and injuries, but will also be a great damage to aerial transportation all over the world and thet will cause a damage of hundreds of milions dollars to all of the western world. This, in the middset of war against terror.

Increasing the dificulty to penetrate airplanes will cause terror organizations to serch for easier ways to reach their goals. At this situation, the airport itself, especially the terminals are becoming the weak point in the protection formation.

Almost all countries around the world investesd mony and great efforts in the prevention of the possibility to penetrate airplanes, but, the terror organizations can easyly "smugle" large quantities of explosieves or toxic substances to the air port terminal, in order to creat muss casualty terror event  at the airport itself (see event at Los Angels airport...). Only  at a few airports around the world the people are being checked before entering the terminal.


Each day thusands of people are comming to airports with a great deal of lugages, usually there is no check at the entrance of the terminal. It is not difficult to bring to the centere of the terminal – which is filled with passengers and their esscorts – a lugage filled with explosieves or other Hazards substances and explod it there.

Such an event inside the terminal will cause hundreds of injuries and casualties inside the terminal and around it..

Needless to say that such an event will put the terminal out of order for many days, and also will cause an immediate change of security instructions at airports around the world, and that will effect in temporary aerial transportaion shut down and a big economic damage.


Is the airport built for giving response to such an event?

At most countries and Israel as well, the total responsibility for preventing and handling terror events is on the police and the inteligence depertment. Many countries around the world has already strted to prepare for response to a terror event ( in the most countries not to  chemical/ biological/ radiological event). Usually the response is based on the existing posibilities of the "first response" in the local organizations. Even in advanced countries – including USA – the immediate response will arrive after long time (20-60 minuts), in a chemical terror event time is the most important factor for saving lives.

At this situation, the immidiate actions taken by the local personell – security guards, checkers, airport medical and general personell – will be the most efficiant for saving lives, therefore, the airport must be prepared to respond immediatly when an event occures up to point of shifting the responsibility to the police.


What shuld we do?

1. Understanding that the airport itself exposed to terror attacks and not just the airplanes, and that the threat is real and must be prepared for.

2. Establishin a system even an exampleryone for checking people and lugages befor entering the terminal.

3. Training security guards and airport personel on the signs that indicates chemical event and others, wearing Escape masks and guiding the terminal population to evacuate the building ASAP

4. Training the airport medical teams in quick clinical identificatin of the event and aiding with immediate response to the first injured.

5. Preparing the terminal systems and personell for quick evacuation of all population to a safe area.

6. Task definition – in addition to their job – gurds will act as perliminary force for rescuing injured from the terminal.

7. Prepardeness for handling the population inside the airport and at it's threated surrounding.

8. Organizing the command and control up to shifting responsibility to the outer agent/ organization.

9. Training for examining and improoving the readiness and prepredness.


Such a combined system of early checking and of quick efficiant response, will decrise sbstentually the airport vulnerability, enables to return the injured airport systems to rutine work, without cousing a grest damage such as the terror organization is seeking.