The objective of this research program is to develop a modeling tool to support the decision makers in evaluating both near-term and long-term practical solutions pertaining to possible changes in the security system and operation strategies at the airports around the nation given the new pandemic world.
The aviation transportation sector is primarily a service industry that is responsible for providing safe and secure domestic and international transport of people and goods by air. Aviation transportation has two distinct roles in pandemic planning. First, related to being vector of disease- air travelers may spread infection around the globe in a matter of hours. Second, the aviation transportation sector supports pandemics responses needs and sustain basic economic stability.
As we are witnessing right now, a service disruption has severely challenged local, regional, and national economic and social stability. There have been many strategies proposed to mitigate the consequences of the pandemic disease spread and in particular the circulation in the United States of America. There has also been many publications and research studies done by different entities throughout the nation that provide guidelines to control the spread and circulation of the pandemic diseases. Some of these strategies and guidelines have been applied, with varying levels of success in different parts of the US. There are questions and varying opinions about feasibility, suitability, and efficacy of the strategies, as well as intense efforts to develop better ones based on evolving experience.
The current situation around the world poses numerous consequences for critical infrastructure including airports as the most important ports of entry in the United States of America. The prolonged pandemic has dramatically disrupted the movement of people and goods, which is threatening essential services and operations across our nation. Today's situation has made the movement of human and material resources more difficult than any other disaster or emergency situation in recent history.
In light of the current pandemic situation, we now have a much better understanding of the threats presented by the pandemic. This includes how it spread around the world, and how it affected the international and domestic trade and transportation dynamics, including the aviation industry. This experience allows us to develop better simulation models for our airports to show where the vulnerabilities and strengths are and how we can mitigate the threat and reduce the spread of the disease in order to facilitate and expedite return to normalcy, albeit a new one, and sustain the operations in this very critical component of our national and international infrastructure.
Developing an agent-based modeling tool utilizing modern computational technologies that can be configured for each airport (with specific physical layouts, Computational Fluid Dynamics for airflow, etc.) and physical security settings (e.g., movable barriers, checkpoints, etc.), and human behavior models (e.g., simulated using "agent-based" tools) in conjunction with the CDC's social distancing guidelines (as the threshold). This can help identify both vulnerabilities and strengths that may affect the control of the pandemics. The software platform will require the option to collect real-time data from actual settings to check actual dynamics tracked as well as physical contact detection against prior simulations. Modeling algorithm and strategies estimates will be updated with real-time data to calibrate the inputs based on the actual conditions and at the airport to see how the upgrades would mitigate the vulnerabilities.
Pandemics directly affect airport operations, which are potentially quite drastic. Developing a software application that has the capability to evaluate pandemics spread vulnerabilities at airports and possible mitigation measures by generating and analyzing the vulnerabilities presented by airport operations, which include "agent-based models" to simulate human behavior as individuals and as groups, can facilitate a swift response and quick recovery in pandemic threats. Such an advanced tool can model the airport layout, operations (e.g., safety measures against all threats, checkpoint operations), maintenance (e.g., disinfection), occupant dynamics (e.g., group dynamics, high-risk, low-risk settings) properly and simulate scenarios using, for example, the CDC's guidelines (e.g., 6-ft social distancing provision, duration of exposure in the common areas such as bathrooms, lounge rooms, and etc.) as the defined thresholds. The other inputs pertained to;
• The flow paths of the occupants (i.e., the paths throughout the airport that the passengers, contractors, patrons, staff, visitors, and other go through before boarding or after exiting the airplanes and the terminals), impact on the population flow and pandemic risk these Population Models (Pop) predicts as influenced by the various operational elements at the airport (e.g., physical security devices, TSA checkpoints).
• Characterization of these population in terms of age, gender, health vulnerabilities, and whether they are infected in some way. This includes changes and characterization with day, time of day, and location of population at the airport.
• Actions of population in terms of their use of social distancing and proper protection equipment (PPE), the level of pandemic threat inherent add to the location, time, and time of day spent at these location (their potential exposure).
These inputs as a group of Pop Models are crucial to the efficacy of the characterization of the risk presented by pandemics to airport operations.
The proposed tool will also compile other input data from real-time surveillance (e.g., using face recognition equipment and temperature screening) to refine the Pop Models and flow pattern of the various airport population groups (passengers, policing personnel, workers, and etc.). The objective is to validate the software tool vis-à-vis the reality in the ground for each type of airport.
Locations throughout the airport can affect the probability of a pandemic spread. Such software applications can help the decision makers prioritize and fine tune the vulnerability mitigation strategies very quickly, as well as evaluate the accuracy of such software.
Given the variety in age, size, and demand of different airports across the country, the software platform would require the creation of a standardized data acquisition model. This would allow different data sources to be aggregated and analyzed effectively. The benefits of this system could have tremendous value beyond the current proposal. For instance, it could evaluate threats to fire and terrorist attacks.
Considerable work is required to create a unified system inherent to such pandemic threat model. Karagozian and Case, Inc. (K&C) along with its partner, Purdue University, is in a unique position to successfully support the development and implementation of the proposed software by being an advanced and highly technical company with experience in software development of risk, lethality, and vulnerability tools. Dr. Pedram Hesam of K&C will be the Principal Investigator, Mr. John Crawford of K&C will be the Program Manager, and Professor Ayhan Irfanoglu of Purdue University will support the research implementation as the Technical Advisor.
K&C plans to demonstrate the feasibility of the proposed software platform by completing the following objectives: 1) identify all the types and sources of data required for the software methodology, 2) develop and demonstrate an initial/simplified methodology that uses the source data, 3) implement the software's capabilities to a sample example airport.
The estimated cost will be limited to one senior-level physical security engineer to support the software application development and two software engineers to implement the software over a 1-year period. The proposed cost is $600,000.
Airports tend to be in a state of periodic change in terms of their physical layouts, operations, and tenants. And while the number of new airports being built is relatively small, many airports and terminals are being remodeled, expanded, and upgraded. Currently and in the aftermath of the new pandemic world, the majority of changing security requirements will be accomplished in existing airport facilities that are often decades old, designed at a time when the threat profile and the security environment were dramatically less stringent than they are today.
All of these points emphasize that there is not a single solution to the unique problems encountered at each airport when designing and integrating security systems, nor is there a single planning and design approach for the physical space and facilities that can be universally applied to all airports. Many relevant research studies have been undertaken addressing the security systems at the airports (e.g. "Recommended Security Guidelines for Airport Planning, Design, and Construction" by the National Safe Skies Alliance, Inc., 2017; "Pandemic Influenza; Preparedness, Response, and Recovery – Guide for Critical Infrastructure and Key Resources", Department of Homeland Security, 2005. In the "Aviation Sub-Sector" of the DHS guidelines ("Annex: Aviation Sub-Sector", Department of Homeland Security, 2005), seven key areas of vulnerability threatening the aviation industry, the supporting actions, and questions to consider are provided. These documents along with many other relevant physical security design guidelines and provisions that K&C have produced for many airports across the nation and around the globe will be utilized in developing the software application discussed above.