Airports in Focus: How Cellular Gate Entry Systems Can Improve Security
Gates are generally one of the most cost-effective tools for deterring criminal activity and restricting access to a facility. Nevertheless, not all gates provide the same quality of security. Older gates often lack basic automatic features, such as the ability to close after a car passes through, and they give remote operators little-to-no data on current gate status and historical traffic patterns.
A recent case of criminal mayhem at Sacramento Executive Airport is shining a spotlight on the embarrassment, costs, and problems that reliance on legacy gate systems can lead to. The case highlights the importance of the advantages that smart cellular gate access systems can provide, including automation, data, alerts, and other features.
A “Wild Police Pursuit” At Sacramento Executive Airport
On the night of April 3, 2021, police were dispatched to Sacramento Executive Airport for a serious incident. A motorist who police say was drunk had smashed through one of the airport’s security gates and was going on a rampage throughout the airport’s facilities. Before police apprehended the suspect, the man smashed into at least five parked planes and forced air traffic controllers to close the runway temporarily. Thankfully, nobody was hurt, but the chaos caused by the incident interrupted airport operations, led to serious property damage, and harmed the airport’s reputation.
Problems With Airport Perimeter Security
Ultimately, the FAA did not take any action against Sacramento Executive Airport. Ian Gregor, an FAA spokesperson, told the media that “the incident appears to be due solely to criminal activity that was beyond the control of the airport.” After all, the airport appears to have followed proper procedures to get the incident under control and prevent injuries from occurring.
Nevertheless, the FAA declining to take legal action against the airport does not mean there was nothing more the airport could have done to keep its facilities more secure. After all, incidents like what happened at Sacramento Executive Airport are not uncommon. For instance, a similar incident occurred in nearby San Jose, Calif., just a few months earlier at Reid-Hillview Airport. In that case, a drunken motorist smashed through two gates, barreled down the runway, and crashed directly into a parked plane with so much force that the wall of a hangar collapsed and two other planes experienced collateral damage.
Both incidents ultimately only occurred because of lax fence and gate security. These barriers were not strong enough to prevent common pedestrian vehicles from smashing through. Inexpensive perimeter security measures, such as the addition of ditches or low mounds, can prevent most civilian vehicles from crashing through fences. Penetration of the airport gates could also have been prevented with the addition of a speed bump and standard crash barrier.
Importance of Technology
Technology also could have helped to reduce damage caused during the incident at Sacramento Executive Airport while facilitating a more effective response. At one point during the incident, air traffic controllers were heard saying, “Hey, you know that gate over by Jet Exe that the cops are coming through? Nobody closed it. It’s still wide open.” Leaving the gate open could have simplified escape for the suspect, made it easier for a possible accomplice to come in, or created an entry point for a patient criminal waiting for the right opportunity to break in.
Publicly accessible imagery from Google Maps shows the airport’s gates use a simple pin pad to control entry, and there are no CCTV cameras visible in the nearby vicinity. As we have covered extensively in the past, pin pads keep few motivated criminals out since the same code generally has to be used by everyone. At a facility with as many guests as an airport, many criminals probably have the entry code already, and any criminal could easily get the code through social engineering or a little networking.
Since the airport’s gates did not make full use of technology, airport security managers were unable to keep gates secured during the incident. Thankfully, the gate being left open did not lead to any problems, but the gate being left open could have led to a wide range of issues that could have exasperated the incident that occurred at Sacramento Executive Airport. The availability of live cameras and sensor data from a cellular gate entry system could have prevented the gate from being left open while giving airport management the monitoring capabilities necessary to prevent unauthorized access.
How Technology Can Improve Incident Response at Airports
According to a spokesperson from Sacramento County, the airport is considering signing on a security company to provide 24-hour security at the airport. The reality is that hiring 24-hour security services is prohibitively expensive, and modern gate entry systems have the potential to function more effectively than human security guards.
Nimbio, the leading provider of cellular gate entry systems, enables anyone with authorized access to open a gate using their smartphone. This technology-based access solution provides every authorized user with a unique digital entry key, so facilities can easily track and control everyone who has access. Visitors can also enter a facility easily with the help of features that enable privileged authorized users to send one-time access to guests or delivery drivers. Best of all, Nimbio can be installed on almost any existing gate so that facilities can adopt the latest access technology in a matter of days at a minimal cost.
Features Ideal for Airports
Nimbio also comes with a range of features that make it ideal for airports and other facilities that require a high level of security. Nimbio’s Gate Status feature provides operators with live data about whether a gate is obstructed, left open, or functioning incorrectly. With the Gate Status feature, airport managers at Sacramento Executive Airport would have had the tools necessary to prevent leaving their facility vulnerable during a chaotic incident.
Additionally, Nimbio is rolling out an integrated camera solution that enables facility managers to instantly see what is going on at every gated point of entry. Integrated cameras could have helped Sacramento Executive Airport to open its gates the moment first responders arrived without the costs, inefficiencies, and safety issues associated with using on-site human gate operators.
The bottom line is that a solution like Nimbio can help airports to stay more secure while providing greater convenience for guests. When security incidents occur, Nimbio provides airport managers, security personnel, and law enforcement with the tools needed to effectively assess and manage the situation in real time. Therefore, facilities that require a high level of security should research and implement modern technology solutions to more effectively achieve their security objectives.