What Airports Can Learn From the Cleveland Airport TSA Security Breach

Airports are not fortresses. That’s what the chief of the Cleveland Hopkins International Airport said after the perimeter breach in the early morning hours of Feb. 3, 2019, when a yellow SUV approached the airport from the west side, crashing through an unattended chain-link gate. The vehicle apparently came to rest in a snowbank, where it was ultimately found, after driving across the airfield for nearly three minutes, crashing through another section of fence in the process. Review the key facts of the Cleveland Airport security incident before reviewing approaches to prevent a similar situation from happening again. While this breach didn’t result in a tragedy, it highlights the importance of proper security measures in airports and other secure areas.

The Cleveland Airport Security Breach

The airport chief explained how such a troubling security breach could be allowed to occur by saying that security levels vary based on factors such as the level of traffic at the airport and the time of day, pointing out that the incident happened during off hours.

It appears that the driver of the SUV was intoxicated at the time of the breach. Though he faces charges of criminal trespassing and drunk driving, it is unclear what, if any, intention he had when breaching the gate and driving onto the airfield.

Cleveland Airport Security Breach | Delta Scientific

What Is a Security Breach at an Airport?

Before exploring strategies for minimizing breaches, it’s important to understand what a security breach at an airport is. Airports have many restricted access areas. Protecting these areas not only promotes safety for the trespassers but also prevents security and safety risks for everyone. Any time an individual enters a restricted access area, it’s considered a security breach.

Security breaches can occur in vehicles, like the Cleveland Airport TSA breach, or by individuals walking into areas around the airport or within the facility. For example, the runways and surrounding areas are restricted access zones for anyone without clearance to enter those zones. If anyone enters an airport terminal without passing the required security checks also constitutes a security breach. There are also many secure areas within an airport that are restricted from passengers.

The Problem of Unauthorized Entry

Security breaches need to be taken seriously, even if those involved have no ill intent. A breach in a perimeter exposes the flaw, giving terrorists and other bad actors the opening they need to gain unauthorized entry.

However, the fact that a vehicle was able to penetrate the perimeter at Cleveland Airport at all is extremely troubling. According to FEMA, terrorists can use vehicles to carry explosives close to a building and launch an attack. Part of the purpose of perimeter security is to protect high-risk buildings such as airports from unauthorized vehicles by keeping them at an appropriate stand-off distance.

The Solution of K-Rated Barricades

To prevent security breaches such as the Cleveland Airport TSA breach, many airports and other sensitive facilities have erected barriers with K ratings, which is a standard devised by the federal government to prevent the cargo bed of a vehicle from penetrating further than 36 inches onto a property. The K rating is based on the barrier’s capability to withstand the impact of a 15,000-pound vehicle, or medium-duty commercial truck. The speed at which the vehicle travels at the time of impact determines the K rating:

  • K4 rating: 30 miles per hour
  • K8 rating: 40 miles per hour
  • K12 rating: 50 miles per hour

Some barriers are rated based on an M-rating system, which was developed by the American Society for Testing and Materials. This newer rating can still be compared with the K-rating system. For example, an M50 rating is seen as generally equivalent to a K12 rating.

Available Types of K-Rated Barricades

There are many barricades available to protect an area from unwanted vehicle traffic. Depending on the situation, areas may need static barricades to prevent all vehicle traffic, movable barricades for short-term situations, or traffic control devices to restrict access to only approved vehicles. Within these broad categories are many different K-rated barricade solutions that airports can use to prevent a breach like the Cleveland Airport security situation:

  • High-security wedge barricades: Available in both electric and hydraulic options, these barriers can control access to airports and other restricted areas.
  • Sliding gates: Up to 30 feet wide and over 9 feet tall, these barriers control access by both vehicles and pedestrians for increased security.
  • Beam barricades: These solutions require little vehicle access disturbance during installation and provide a barricade up to 30 feet across.
  • Bi-fold speed gates: Open and close a secure gate in as little as 6 seconds with a bi-fold electric or hydraulic gate.
  • Surface-mounted barricades: Airports and other facilities can consider a surface-mounted solution if drainage and other features prevent a sub-surface installation.
  • Portable barriers: Temporary restriction of vehicle access can be achieved quickly and effectively by portable barriers, which can be transported efficiently and deployed in rapid response to a security situation.

The Importance of Choosing the Right Solution

The matter of the Cleveland airport TSA perimeter breach is complicated by the fact that the gate where the vehicle gained access, though unsupervised at the time of the breach, appears to see traffic during the day. Therefore, static barricades, such as fixed bollards, would not be feasible because they would prevent entry by even authorized vehicles. The solution is a K-rated traffic control device that can be lowered to allow authorized vehicles to enter and raised to prevent penetration by trespassers, even at high speeds.

How to Avoid Risks Like the Cleveland Airport Security Incident

At Delta Scientific, we have traffic control products to meet all your security needs. Whether your location has already experienced a security risk or you wish to prevent any breach from occurring, K-rated barricades and other solutions may be the right choice. Reach out to see how you can prevent an incident like the Cleveland Airport security risk from occurring at another location. Use our convenient online form to contact us today or call us at (661) 575-1100 or email at info@DeltaScientific.com.