By Robert Nordstrom As published in: Airport Improvement Magazine – May-June 2012>
"By making the program available to all public-use airports, we have made airport security a top priority – even for airports that previously could not afford to offer training to their staff," explains David Roberts, FDOT Aviation Operations administrator. The agency also extends training to onsite workers not employed by the airport, such as local police officers who respond to calls at the airport.
Sebring Regional Airport (SEF) is requiring its employees, FBO management team and security officers to take the training. Vicky Stewart, SEF project coordinator, notes that consistency and continuity of training are key benefits of the program; that's why the airport includes accounting and finance department personnel on its participant list.
"Everyone is taking the training to be able to answer inquiries," Stewart explains. "When our employees are finished with the training, we will then make a decision on whether to offer the training to our airside tenants. Everyone is getting the same training; everyone knows the same things."
With coursework available 24/7 via the internet, Stewart describes the new training program as a "great time-saver."
"Personnel can take the training when it is convenient for them," she explains. "If they have 15 minutes available, they can start the training, stop if they need to, then come back and pick up from where they left off."
Stewart also finds the program user-friendly: "Everyone who has taken it so far has said they like it and look forward to taking the new sessions when they are posted."
Employee response has been similarly positive at Jacksonville International Airport(JAX). "Our airport security officers come from various backgrounds," remarks Larry Monts, training administrator for the Jacksonville International Airport Police Department. "Some are from military service; others are just out of college or ordinary citizens who have taken a job in airport security. Across the board, the training has been very well-received."
Monts appreciates that the information is presented in a condensed, interactive format that reduces the amount of time employees have to be away from their job for training. "Before, we had to either send staff offsite for training, develop in-house training or bring in experts – all of which are time-consuming and expensive," he notes. "Now, we can do our training right here on our property. The program is free to airports, plus we save the time and expense of employees being off doing training for a day."
Rather than developing a training program from scratch, the FDOT searched for a company with existing programs that could be modified to the specific needs and expectations of Florida airports. Safety & Security Instruction (SSi), an e-learning company that specializes in safety and security training for airports, airlines and other commercial aviation-related companies, won the contract in July 2011.
FDOT personnel identified 12 training modules that met commercial airport training needs and provide a baseline for the requirements specified in 49 CFR Parts 1540 (airport security) and 1542 (civil aviation security):
• Basic Security Awareness
• General Aviation Security
• Escort Procedures
• Non-SIDA (Security Information Display Area) Training
Project: Security Training
Location: Florida public-use airports
Program Development: Florida Dept. of Transportation, Aviation Office
Program Vendor: SSi
Cost to Airports: $0
Actual Cost: $15/student
Funding: United We Stand state license plate revenue
Noteworthy Details: All public-use airports in FL are eligible to receive free security training; online program saves airports time & money.
• Challenge Procedures
• Badging Practices
• Physical Vehicle Inspection
• SIDA Training
• Law Enforcement Preparation
• Dirty Bomb Drill
• K-9 Security
• Checked Baggage Screening
FDOT personnel worked closely with SSi to modify existing training modules to meet FDOT requirements, notes Roberts. Six modules were posted on the training site in March, ready for airports to access; the remaining seven are in various stages of refinement and approval. SSi president Lorena de Rodriguez describes the 12 modules as "somewhat hierarchical," based on the activities and operations of a particular airport.
"For a very small general aviation airport," de Rodriguez explains, "some of these courses may not be applicable. Some of the larger airports, however, will find great value in training their personnel in all of these courses. The various modules give the State of Florida the opportunity to put together a training curriculum based upon specific operations unique to all their public use airports."
To begin using the program, an airport's training coordinator participates in a 30- to 45-minute webinar orientation, and then helps staff, tenants or other appropriate professionals access the online modules. The coordinator has direct contact with the SSi program manager, who answers questions and resolves access problems. The FDOT does not limit the number of people eligible for training.
The various online modules, each one hour long, are designed to be used for initial orientation, remediation and ongoing training. Although the modules are standardized to maintain consistency, each course is dynamic, so the questions change if a person retakes a course.
Course content is presented in sections. A portion of the topic material is presented, followed by a practice quiz. Questions for quizzes are drawn randomly from a bank of options, so they vary for each participant. When trainees complete all sections, they must pass a final quiz based on the module's content. Coursework is designed to require participants to interact with the content, as opposed to watching lengthy videos that may cause them to lose attention.
Worth the Wait
The new training program dates back to 2003, when the Florida legislature worked closely with airports throughout the state to create the Secure Airports for Florida's Economy (SAFE) Council – an action directly reflecting the high priority placed on airport security after 9/11. The council was tasked to identify and recommend new funding sources for projects to improve Florida's air transportation security system and consequently benefit the state's economic health.
In October 2009, the SAFE Council determined the project would be best served and managed by the FDOT Aviation Office. The council was dissolved in 2010, and the Florida legislature authorized FDOT to receive the SAFE funds from United We Stand license plate revenues for the sole purpose of funding airport security projects and management training.
Monts commends the FDOT for taking the time to roll out a quality product: "They have put a lot of thought into this program. They have not pushed it through half-done and have taken the time to make sure they are providing a high-quality, user-friendly program that benefits airports."