Apr 10, 2003

Transportation Security Starts with People

A transportation management center has a key role in any attempt to integrate transportation security.

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

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

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

* 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, 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].