Transportation Security Starts with People

April 2, 2018
A transportation management center has a key role in any attempt to integrate transportation security.

About the author: Salvatore D'Agostino, ITS expert and consultant in ITS security-related issues has over 20 years of experience in security, imaging, transportation and automation. He serves as chairman of the board for the Cambridge Business Development Center and holds board of director positions at a number of industry organizations and companies including the Freeway Operations Committee of the Transportation Research Board. D'Agostino can be reached at [email protected].

Technology supports people; it improves employee productivity and has positive economic and safety impacts in transportation security applications where it's integrated properly.

If you can agree with this statement after you have installed a system, then you have a valid investment and happier customers. If this statement cannot be supported after an installation, someone was probably looking for a magic bullet and denial abounds.

This metric applies every time new tools are given to people whether it's a hammer or an automated perimeter monitoring system. Based on something as simple as its size relative to a user a hammer can result in well struck nails or operator fatigue, dented wood and broken thumbs. Depending on alarm sensitivity (size of a different type) a perimeter monitoring system can detect intruders or create false alarms from leaves or dogs, operators crying wolf and a system that gets turned off.

In one case it results in people championing new tools and in the other it results in people losing their desire to apply new things. This is the case no matter what the tool and is particularly true when trying to integrate new technology into transportation security systems.

This column focuses on the need to look at integrating transportation systems and security by putting people up front. The column makes the case that when this is done there are numerous and quantifiable benefits that accrue.

When people are used as a key part of the paradigm for design you end up with a better design. The benefits from this approach accrue only if things are examined in detail, as is most surely the case for many things.

As an example, a transportation management center (TMC) has a key role in any attempt to integrate transportation security. From a people perspective let's examine the typical first response of a TMC. First response for normal traffic incidents typically can be police and tow trucks and it can also be the fire department. However, it could include the public works department if it's a blown water main or other infrastructure related issues; it could include the environmental protection department if a toxic spill is involved; it includes the morgue if there is a death; utility companies if power or phone lines are involved; and it could involve state or multiple national public safety agencies depending on the event.

It is necessary to understand that having all of these people involved makes for better specification, design, building and operation of integrated and intelligent transportation systems. This becomes even more evident when transportation security is integrated.

Technology changes organizations

A couple of things have always struck me in trying to increase system performance with automation and technology with respect to people. First, and primarily, is a focus that comes from the assumption that the investment results in reduced staffing. While this often should be true it does not mean that people are removed from the process.

What happens is that people are moved—namely their jobs change. What may have been a manual process for a number of people now becomes a faster process for fewer. Necessarily new roles (either for existing personnel or for new hires) are created elsewhere. This applies to new maintenance tasks, new system administration and related reports for information technology staffs, new types of items for purchasing, new positions for human resources, different budget amounts for finance and so on.

It means that technology changes organizations. This needs to be the focus, not the magic bullet. The economic justification and evaluation needs to take place both at the application (micro) and organizational (macro) level. And in today's world, particularly in more advanced economies people are the crux.

The second point about people and integration is that they need to be taken into account early in the process to affect the design. Consideration of people's roles also needs to be taken into account during the life (operation) of the project.

Another way to look at this is to design for the users. If users do their job well, anyone else involved will benefit. In the case of transportation and security systems this often means the public, who are importantly also known as the customer. This needs to include not only the immediate user of the system but also the other people that will come into contact with the system.

There are some very cogent examples in transportation security, e.g., first responders. Considering up front an integrated traffic management center's interaction with first responders will result in faster, better and safer response at the time it is needed.

Time matters whether it is clearing a traffic incident or a more catastrophic event. Communications infrastructure (infostructure), signal and message prioritization, command structure and operations centers all benefit from the simple consideration of the multiple groups of people involved.

A number of extremely positive things happen when people are given a priority in system integration:

* User training and education get emphasized;

* Common language and common goals evolve;

* Organizational alignment takes place;

* Projects are more easily appreciated outside of their institutional silo and gain broader public and therefore political support;

* Multiple constituencies' needs get addressed;

* Better user interfaces result;

* Economies of scale result from shared use of the infostructure;

* More realistic budgets are developed; and

* Systems perform better.

Finally, the integration process proceeds more smoothly rather than in fits and starts when new opinions are added after the fact. TME

About the Author

Salvatore D'Agostino

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