Anyone who has flown knows that airports are big and hectic, with a vast amount of workers who answer to a variety of employers. It can seem daunting to uphold effective access control in such a busy environment.
However, access control — including key management, distribution, and tracking – is especially necessary for these facilities. As airports run on strict schedules, effective processes must be in place to ensure authorized personnel can be in the right place at the right time.
To illustrate the magnitude of this task, let’s look at an example. San Antonio International Airport maintains about 5,000 badged employees. A single worker is tasked with issuing and keeping track of keys, which are stored on hooks in a metal cabinet, to the airport’s 4,000-plus doors.
If that seems like a lot, consider that LAX has over 50,000 badged workers, and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport has more than 60,000. These massive facilities have even more keys to track — far too many for a single person to manage.
Unfortunately, it isn’t enough to rely on trust when issuing keys. Human error can lead to costly outcomes in terms of both funds and safety. Even worse, employee access abuse can do serious harm to an airport.
Let’s take a look at some of the potential problems resulting from poor key control and what you can do about it.
Protecting the City Within a City
Securing a sprawling airport requires high standards for safeguarding areas like control towers, the tarmac, and the inside of baggage claim. Why is it so important to properly guard these areas? Consider that landing procedures mandate focused, uninterrupted performance from all individuals involved in the process. Even a minor distraction, like if the wrong person entering the tarmac area, could put passengers, crew, and airport employees at risk.
Because baggage claim is a common target of both smuggling and theft, it’s crucial to restrict inside entry to authorized workers. Likewise, airport data centers contain sensitive passenger and flight information that must be protected. Intruders or even insiders wishing to do harm would have no shortage of opportunities if they accessed these areas.
Avoiding Financial Repercussions
Just as protecting certain areas is important, so is avoiding the financial repercussions of lost or stolen keys. Even one lost master key can represent thousands of dollars, and many work hours spent replacing locks and keys.
Also, consider the time and productivity lost when a key is missing, and you must perform an unplanned key audit. This creates a ripple effect as delaying one operating activity then prevents fulfilling many more. Making replacement keys requires matching the key to the right door, having the key made, and then reissuing access to specified workers. In an airport with thousands of doors, this process costs the time and attention of workers who have more important matters.
Modernizing Key Control
Better key control practices are critical to improving the security of your airport and reducing potential costs. Consider using an electronic key control system that secures keys in locking drawers or a wall-mounted cabinet and automatically tracks who accessed a key and when. This gives you a verifiable audit trail and cuts down on time spent looking for a key.
Since a wide variety of employees would need access to such systems, permission levels and alerts should be set up to restrict access to high-security keys adequately. By automatically tracking access, employees will also know they’ll be held accountable for their actions when they have a key, ensuring that keys are properly handled and promptly returned to the system.
Airports already have an intense amount of activity taking place daily. By investing in advanced key systems, access control becomes less of a worry and a more sustainable practice.