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Airport security decision making study

Airports are being made safer through modelling the behaviour of airport staff. Security officers can be trained to notice and appropriately respond to the revealing patterns of social interaction.
Airport security decision making study
A system to enhance airport security has been developed by the EU-funded 'Behavioral modeling for security in airports' (BEMOSA) project. Including 10 European partners and 1 from Israel, the project ran from September 2009 to November 2012. It aimed to improve airport security by enhancing the capacity of security personnel to detect and respond to security threats. Essentially, this meant determining how airport staff behave in normal and abnormal situations, and using these patterns to support decision making.

BEMOSA approached the problem using combined ethnographic observations, questionnaires, interviews and panel discussions. The intent was to determine how security decisions are made, and by whom. The project's study of eight European airports revealed numerous problems. Specifically, that up to 40 % of staff break or ignore security rules, and that 75 % of potential security situations are assessed as false alarms. Trust in technology was a major factor.

Project members also created type-profiles of employees according to their rule compliance, information that could be used in the form of recruitment and placement strategies. BEMOSA's interview-based research derived a model predicting decision-making behaviour, whereby decisions are made within groups and according to informal social networks, rather than by individuals. The behaviour was confirmed observationally. The model also made other useful predictions applicable to security contexts.

Using this data, BEMOSA created the basis for comprehensive security training programme guidelines. These combine scenario simulation with alternative training schedules, allowing training that illustrates normal and abnormal behaviours of airport personnel. The simulations, with the results of the study's modelling, better equip security staff to interpret monitoring information.

The BEMOSA project's research resulted in the identification of patterns of interaction among airport staff and with passengers. The information has been incorporated into security training programmes, helping security staff to better interpret information and make better decisions. Specifically, this will reduce false alarms and improve passenger satisfaction with airport security.

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