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Britons, Airport Officials Learn From Each Other
By Herschel J. Grangent, Jr.

Don’t let the fact that tea and crumpets are served at noon fool you into thinking that terrorist acts are not of concern to Mother England’s airports. A smoldering sport utility vehicle that damaged the Glasgow, Scotland airport last year was sobering evidence that they are.

Britons, Airport Officials Learn From Each Other

In the interest of deterring future violence and learning more effective procedures, airport and law-enforcement personnel from Great Britain recently visited Atlanta for a security symposium. While here, attendees trained with their American counterparts at Hartsfield-Jackson.

“This two-day visit allowed officials from both sides of the Atlantic to ask themselves, ‘how can we make our airports safer?’ ” said Sgt. Valerie Sellers of the Atlanta Police Department’s Airport Section. “The aim was to compare notes and address airport and homeland security in the 21st century.”

About a dozen British officials, security and anti-terrorism experts from airports in Gatwick, Bristol, Midlands and East Midlands, attended the conference. The itinerary included a series of seminars conducted by Atlanta Airport security professionals and law-enforcement officials from federal, state and local agencies. One topic discussed was 100-percent employee screening. Hartsfield-Jackson Security Director Richard Duncan explained why 100-percent employee screening has different meanings for British and American airports.

“In the U.K., everyone passes through security screening, whether they are flying or going to work on a concourse,” said Duncan. “That doesn’t seem to be practical in the United States. Even if an employee who is a would-be terrorist passed through security checks, they will still have access to screwdrivers, knives, gasoline and other contraband. Therefore, the trust aspect is of more importance to us than the physical employee screening.”

That trust is built on a 10-year federal background check and periodic re-checks that all Airport employees undergo.

The Britons had the rare opportunity to tour secure areas and operations at Hartsfield-Jackson, including the Transportation Security Administration’s Hold Baggage Screening System. There was also a weapons demonstration at the APD’s firing range and a semi-formal reception at the British Consulate’s residence.

Peter Wickenden, deputy consul general at the British Consulate in Atlanta, said the symposium was an example of the ongoing exchange of information between the United States and Great Britain. “We think we’ve got a lot we can learn from your knowledge,” Wickenden said. “And hopefully there are some things we can share. It’s an exchange, not just of best practices, but of worst practices as well. Very often it is valuable to exchange information about what didn’t go well.”

© 2008 Hartsfield-Jackson News. A Publication from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. All rights reserved.


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