• United States



Carrying a Lot of Baggage

Apr 01, 20033 mins
CSO and CISOData and Information Security

You might think that deploying a state-of-the-art baggage-screening system is a simple matter of plunking down your $146 million and watching as the new machines are delivered and assembled. Life should be so simple.

“We built 85,000 square feet of new bag rooms,” says Dennis Treece, director of corporate security at the Massachusetts Port Authority, or Massport, the public agency that runs Boston’s Logan International Airport. “We renovated 55,000 square feet of old bag rooms and installed 2.8 miles of new bag belting in 4-foot sectionseach section with its own motor, and each motor going to a control panel run by a computer program that had to be designed onsite. Because no two bag belts are the same, no two bag-belt systems are the same, and each airline has its own unique software. And everything had to match and merge. We installed the L3 [screening] machines that do the scanning for explosive devices in bags. They go at eight feet per minute; the bag belt goes at 30 feet per minute. So you’ve got to have step-down sections in speed. The mouth of the [L3] machine is small, so we had to figure out how we’re gonna make bags go in there without hanging up and without putting a human at the mouth to make it sort out. We had to make sure that no bag could accidentally go from the unscreened to the screened area. So there’s air gaps, physically, in the bag room, such that a TSA employee has to actually take the bag and move it from the inbound belt to the outbound-to-the-plane belt, only after it’s been cleared.

“And all of this had to be done in the nine months that we had between contract let and execution time. And, oh by the way, we really want to thank Congress for establishing a deadline in the middle of the peak travel period in the country.”

The system went live, as decreed by law, on midnight, Dec. 31, 2002.

“It wasn’t easy,” says Treece. “Eight new power substations [had to be added] because these L3 machineswe have between 30 and 40 of them on stationare like MRIs. They’re huge power hogs. So we needed the new substations to make them work. Just a lot of things had to be done, and had to be done fairly quickly. We peaked at 800 people onsite on one day800 workers [from the various contractors] doing all of the things necessary. They came from 40 different states and 20 different countries.”