Airport Security Opportunities

July 1, 2008
For every huge airport like O’Hare and LAX, there are hundreds of smaller airports that don’t have the flight activity or personnel budget to have a full-time locksmith on staff. This is where you come in.

The increase in security at airports since Sept. 11, 2001, has been obvious. The large metropolitan airports are crawling with additional personnel, equipment and activity. These large airports have security staffs that usually involve in-house locksmiths to install and service the security products.

In addition to the overwhelming list of items required by the Transportation Safety Administration and the Federal Aviation Authority, there are local and regional codes to be met.
Because the nature of security and needs are constantly changing, there is an ongoing effort to keep abreast of these changes. Let’s look at the potential for selling security products to different areas of an airport and what their needs might include.

The perimeter doors to both the general public and secured areas have the potential for upgraded key control or high security cylinders. Discuss the matter with the security people and explain how key control can benefit them when an employee leaves. The liability of an ex-employee gaining access to a secured area is lessened when a restricted key is returned upon their departure. Maintaining key control is vital to the security of an airport.
Although many smaller airports don’t use enclosed jetways to get on and off the airplane, there are still doors, stairways, sections and areas that are off-limits.

Restricted areas offer an opportunity to upgrade mechanical locks to electronic push button locks. These standalone units can provide an excellent way to provide full time zone control and the ability to grant and deny access to personnel without rekeying. The audit trail feature allows reporting of who used which lock and when they used it. Some models even track unauthorized attempts at entry by an authorized user.

Credentials for electronic locks can be in the form of mag stripe, proximity or Weigand cards. The best upgrade now includes cards with dual features. One card can be used for proximity and mag stripe use. These cards are normally also used as personnel identification badges and may allow employees to purchase food and other items as well. Ibuttons, Dallas chips, proximity key fobs and electronic smart keys are also items that can offer additional security to your customer. 

Although the X-Ray machines and hand-held scanners are out of our area, there are numerous other areas at airport that require the products you sell. Various gates and storage areas use padlocks, cam locks, cabinet locks and utility locks. You have the ability to offer some or all of these locks that will be compatible with their master key system, but your customer may not know these products exist unless you tell them.
Other restricted areas of an airport include baggage areas, equipment storage areas, hangars, maintenance shops etc. Combine these with gift shops, food vendors, airline counters and the airline areas themselves and you have a long list of potential sales opportunities that you may be missing now.

In addition to selling new hardware, every piece of hardware that is currently installed presents an opportunity for ongoing service. Discuss the idea of a preventative maintenance contract where (for a charge) you will do a bi-monthly security walk-thru to identify areas in need of additional service.

Here are some potential targets:

Cam, File & Cabinet Locks – Every office and ticket counter is filled with office equipment, storage cabinets, closets and file cabinets. Everything in a customer or common area must be kept locked. Look around and start counting the potential.

Mechanical Door Locks – Everyday use, extremely heavy use, damage from equipment and carts, latch adjustment, door and frame alignment, broken keys, wear and tear, etc. can all add up to service potential.
Hinges & Pivots – Extended use, high winds, stripped screws, propped doors and collisions with carts can all cause doors to sage, bend or warp. Heavier hinges, continuous hinges, doorstops, door bumpers, pivots and door coordinators are all suspect for adjustment or replacement over time.

Door Closers – Surface mounted door closers, floor closers, concealed overhead closers and spring-assisted hinges are things that wear out. Back check, closing speed and latching speed can all change with extended use and even changes in the weather. Pointing out the potential liability of a slamming door or leaking closer to a maintenance or security person will likely get their attention.

Exit Devices – Rim, mortise, surface or concealed vertical rod or electrified panic devices are subject to service. Mechanical lock down parts that use screws or cams can wear out. Electronic hold back or latch retraction units can bind or fail. Simple alignment or adjustment can be the difference between a door closing fully or being left unlocked.

High Security & Restricted Keys – The obvious benefit of key control may need to be explained to your customer. Don’t assume that your customer knows you offer a wide variety of brands featuring a varying list of benefits. Explain the difference between restricted and patented. Explain the various points of high security (side bars, factory milling, anti-drill discs, angled pins, etc.) and why they make it virtually impossible for someone to get unauthorized copies of these keys. While you’re at it, don’t forget to point out the benefits of removable and/or interchangeable core lock systems and the labor they save.

Electronic Door Locks – Programming and maintenance are needed to keep the information current. Explain the benefits of audit trails and time zones. It’s amazing how many electronic locks with the capability to track hundreds of users and codes are set up with one code shared by all users. This makes an audit trail worthless. Explain the features they have already that aren’t being used properly.

Electric Strikes – Adjustment, solenoid replacement, wire connections that come loose and using the wrong strike for the job are all common problems. Don’t use an intermittent duty strike in a continuous duty application. If a strike keeps breaking or wearing out, installing a heavy-duty strike may solve the problem. Keep in mind the importance of a properly aligned and smoothly closing door to operate correctly when an electric strike is involved.

Electromagnetic Locks – Mostly maintenance free, these locks may need an occasional adjustment of the door or strike plate. If a battery backup is used in the power supply, the batteries should be checked to make sure they meet their load rating and life expectancy.

Closed Circuit Television – Constant changes are possible with CCTV equipment. Camera adjustment, lens changes, lighting variation, area covered, pan-tilt-zoom needs change, housing get damaged, etc. Consider the cameras, lenses, housings, wiring, monitors and recording equipment in the whole package. Are they using full color, high-resolution equipment tied to digital recorders or is it old black-and-white cameras hooked up to a VHS system? In an emergency, the better the picture, the better the chance of finding the solution to the problem.

Car Rental Companies – Most airports have on-site car rental companies. They all have doors, office equipment and loads of cars, all with locks. If you no longer do automotive work, be prepared to recommend a friend or colleague who does.

Toll Booths – Some potential here for door, equipment and cabinet locks.

Parking Garages – Doors, locks, closers, hinges etc.

Other Vendors – As mentioned earlier, there are usually some food, gift shop, shoe shining, luggage repair or other types of vendors, even in smaller airports. If it involves a gate, door, counter or cash register, there are locks waiting to fail.

After speaking with various smaller airports in the Midwest, there were three common threads. One, they were reluctant to offer too much specific information; two, they didn’t want to be identified in this article; and three, there are plenty of opportunities for local security professionals.

Because of the security issues involved, I agreed I wouldn’t name any of the airports or identify specific cities, personnel, product names, models or keyways. Use your own imagination to figure out where the potential exists for smaller airports in your geographic territory.

It will take some effort on your part. Identify who is in charge of security, make an appointment to meet with them and go prepared. Bring any brochures or material that explains who you are and what you have to offer in the way of security sales and service.

Dress professionally and explain how you can assist them in meeting their needs. Take some mounted product samples and literature on the products you are proposing. Explain that as a security professional, you can offer consultation and would be willing to do a security survey to better understand their needs. After all, if you don’t tell them about the great service you offer, who will?