Issues in Airport Perimeter Security

Twelve years after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, airports in the United States and across the world have steadily increased their security measures. Today, most major airports are equipped with hi-tech luggage scanners and full body x-ray machines. Tens of thousands of trained security personnel occupy airport terminals to ensure the safety of passengers. Terminals and passenger concourses are now designed and built or retrofitted to accommodate the extra floor space, loading space, scanning equipment and other requirements necessary for this effort. Consequently, securing commercial air travel throughout the United States has been an expensive endeavor, with the Transportation Security Association (TSA) requesting an $8 billion (or greater) annual budget since 2001.

With the commitment evidenced by these investments over the last decade, airport terminals are safer than ever by every considered metric established to measure the threat. However, airport perimeter security remains the weakest link in the security chain. Federal agencies, such as the TSA and the FAA, need to become more aware of this pressing issue.

Recent perimeter breaches

  • In August 2012, a man unintentionally breached the $100 million sensor-equipped security perimeter at JFK International Airport in New York City after his jet-ski broke down in Jamaica Bay and he swam to land.[1]
  • In February 2013 in Brussels, $50 million worth of diamonds were stolen from an aircraft about to depart by eight men disguised as police who forcefully breached the airport’s security perimeter and performed the heist.[2][r1]
  • In August 2013, a Nigerian boy was found in the wheel well of a commercial aircraft headed to Lagos, Nigeria’s economic capital.[3]

Since 2001, there have been over 1,300 breaches to airport security perimeters in the U.S. alone.[4]

Challenges in Airport Perimeter Security

  1. Geography: Airports are generally on very large, expansive plots of land. It is a daunting and expensive task to successfully maintain fenced perimeters for such large properties.
  2. Expense: Devices such as dedicated sensors along perimeter fencing allow authorities to be alerted of perimeter breaches.  However, these systems must be operable at all times and in all weather conditions to be effective.
  3. Insufficient Regulation: Without specific guidance from the FAA and TSA, airports must work to assess and counter perimeter threats independently. So far, there has been no unifying perimeter security regulation established for the over 450 commercial airports in the United States.

Best Practices for Designing Efficient Airport Perimeters

  • Taller fences, especially ones equipped with barbed wire, provide not only a greater physical barrier but also a greater psychological disincentive.
  • Fencing should protrude well into the ground to prevent trespassers and wildlife from entering the property from the bottom of the fence. This also reinforces the strength of the fence.
  • Limit the number of points of entry into an airport’s property. The fewer gates or guarded entry points, the fewer opportunities a trespasser has to breach the restricted area.
  • Ground-sensor systems are popular solutions to airport perimeter security issues but may not be feasible for smaller commercial airports (due to cost).

TMG experience in airport fencing solutions

In August, 2013, TMG Consulting completed a perimeter security project that was commissioned by Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (LANOIA). TMG provided professional services to replace the Airport’s perimeter fencing and, with its designs, gave recommendations as to how the perimeter fencing could be made more secure and effective. Among TMG’s recommendations were the following:

  • Make the entire fence eight feet tall and extend two feet into the ground where possible.
    • The upgrades to the perimeter fencing should better deter wildlife (LANOIA is in a naturally swampy environment) from breaching the perimeter.
  • Make the fence able to withstand 130 mile per hour winds in the event of a Category 3 hurricane.
  • Redefine the secure perimeter to remove areas that do not need to be included.
    • Over time, some buildings located within the Airport’s perimeter became vacant or demolished.
  • Replace underutilized gates with fencing.
    • Eliminates excessive access points and increases security.
  • Implement better signage to the perimeter fencing.
    • Should discourage accidental perimeter breaches.

While these recommendations are specific to the LANOIA, the methods and analysis that created them can be applied to any facility that requires perimeter security.  TMG excels at creating focused solutions to perimeter security as well as a host of other airport capital planning needs.

Contributed by:  

Jan Garbers

Director of Geomatics or (504) 569-9239 x25


The views, interpretations, or strategies expressed are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the position of TMG Consulting. This site is meant for educational purposes only and does not constitute professional advice. TMG Consulting makes no representation as to accuracy, completeness, or suitability of any information on this site and will not be liable for damages arising from its display or use.

[1] Avila, Jim. “Jet Skier Who Exposed JFK Airport’s Security Tried to Get Caught.” ABC News Network, 24 Oct. 2012. Web. 10 Sept. 2013.

[2] Ca Sert, Raf. “Multimillion Dollar Diamond Heist in Brussels.” Associated Press, 19 Feb. 2013. Web. 10 Sept. 2013.

[3] Si, Eno-Aba. “State of Security at Nigerian Airports.” The Guardian, Nigeria, 2 Sept. 2013. Web. 10 Sept. 2013.

[4] US House of Representatives. Office of Congressman William Keating. Perimeter Security: Weakest Link in Airport Safety. N.p., 1 Mar. 2012. Web.

Loyola University Hosts Discussion on International Business

On April 10th, Loyola University’s Joseph A. Butt, S.J. College of Business presented a panel discussion on business practices and relationships between Germany and the United States (  As a German who is now a permanent resident of the U.S., I was honored to be a part of this interesting and informative discussion.  I was joined on the panel by: W. Paul Andersson, Honorary Consul of the Federal Republic of Germany in Louisiana; Jeffrey A. Krug, PhD, Professor of Strategy and Chair of International Business at Loyola; and Jacquelyn A. Gross, President of the Global Business Association at Loyola.  In attendance were over 80 undergraduate students and their guests.

The evening discussion, organized by Loyola undergraduate students, focused on the necessity for young persons to spend time studying and working outside of the United States.  Differences in work culture and societal nuances were of particular interest to the audience, as many had previous experiences abroad, and many more were preparing for such.  As panelists, we all agreed that maintaining an open mind to cultural differences will be essential in today’s global economy.  Of concern to all were the legal issues and difficulties in obtaining necessary visas for international study and employment.  I, for one, am hopeful that the United States and the European Union will be able to form a trade zone in the future.  The establishment of a trade zone will hopefully open up the doors for more communication, collaboration, and interaction between the country of my birth and the country I now call home.

I was truly impressed with the students and faculty of Loyola University, and I am confident that they will be forging new territory in international business, hopefully with my native Germany.

Contributed by:

Jan Garbers

Director, Geomatics  

The views, interpretations, or strategies expressed are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the position of TMG Consulting. This site is meant for educational purposes only and does not constitute professional advice. TMG Consulting makes no representation as to accuracy, completeness, or suitability of any information on this site and will not be liable for damages arising from its display or use.

Jan Garbers Joins European Civil Protection Congress

This September, TMG’s Jan Garbers was invited to the 8th European Civil Protection Congress.

The European Civil Protection Congress is an international platform informing the national, European and international Experts and decision-makers of disaster management, civil protection and relief organizations about the latest developments in the field.

The congress intends to strengthen the dialogue between public authorities, associations, universities and experts. The annual conference attracts 800-1,000 participants from more than 20 nations.  This platform presents latest political decisions, enables networks and extents cooperation. Among the participants are the Federal Office of Civil Protection and Disaster Assistance and the Federal Agency of Technical Relief advising the organizers content wise.

The close bonds with the European Commission and other relief organizations allow the participants to fortify and to enhance relations to other experts. 2011 the conference was supported by the European Commission and the United Nations. The European Civil Protection Congress is a set date in the agenda of national and international decision- makers.

The European Civil Protection Congress briefly:

  • International platform for the leadership levels of disaster management and civil protection,
  • High-ranking technical reports from Ministries of the Interior and the European Commission,
  • Meeting point for political decision-makers and disaster managers,
  • Conference program presents international very important persons of Politics, Administration and Disaster management,
  • Up to ten specialized Panel Sessions,
  • Accompanying exhibition of the prominent manufacturers of system solutions,

The European Civil Protection Congress is an annual conference that takes place in Bonn, Germany in September each year.