Airport Operations Center Emphasizes Health, Safety, and Security at Houston Airports
July 22, 2019

If you see something, say something!                                                                                               

The health, safety, and security of Houston Airports customers and staff are of utmost importance. We are asked to be aware of our surroundings every day.

HAS served a record-breaking number of passengers in 2018, topping out at more than 58 million people for the first time. Against that ever-growing backdrop, vigilance in the safety and security of HAS passengers and staff is more important than ever.

Dawn Hoffman, Manager of Landside Operations at William P. Hobby Airport (HOU), was among the key drivers as Houston Airports recently established an Airport Operations Center (AOC) at HOU, the first phase in a planned multi-phase effort. Phase I entailed relocating the Airport Communications Center (ACC) staff to HOU. With cameras always trained on the premises, the AOC will serve the staff and passengers at HOU and at Ellington Airport (EFD) and became fully operational on July 1.

According to Federal Aviation Administration statistics, 2,789,971 passengers fly every day in and out of U.S. airports. The rise in air travel prompts the great need for efficient safety systems, processes, and procedures. Many airports, Houston Airports among them, serve as economic engines for the cities and regions they operate from. Unfortunately, airports can be victims to multiple threats - cyber-crimes, smuggling, robberies, vandalism, and terrorism. “Public safety is of extreme importance to Houston Airports,” Liliana Rambo, HOU General Manager said, “ and this move strengthens our ability to protect, defend, and quickly respond to any issues that might arise.”

“The AOC is a real-time situational awareness concept that breaks down the silos between Airport functions thus providing a better customer experience,” Hoffman said.“ We made this move in about six weeks and it has been very fast-paced,” she said.

The AOC is a 24/7 operation that employs three shifts and covers all functions within the two airports – maintenance, customer service, operations, and security. As a routine “for example” of what the AOC covers, Rambo said, “At this position here, we have all the door alarms up and when notified when a door alarm goes off, the AOC communicates that to the field operators who’ll go out into the field and collaboratively will investigate and make a determination.”

The AOC receives external customer calls for general information as well as customer calls from stakeholders. This includes notifications that jet bridges are down, any facilities not operationally ready, unattended baggage, and even suspicious persons. Additionally, incidents can include a first aid call with a slip and fall or a vehicle accident from an operational standpoint.

“This is the pulse of the airport,” Hoffman said. “When anything is going on, we have to be able to communicate quickly and accurately. The long-term plan is to eventually provide the environment for face to-to-face communications and leverage technology to support all stakeholders including,  the, Transportation Security Administration, Fire, Police, and Security Contractors within the AOC. Having everyone in the same room lends to far greater efficiency,” she said.

She works in close coordination with Byron Oujesky, Emergency Preparedness Coordinator. Hoffman and Oujesky both recently completed the coursework necessary and received their Project Management Professional (PMP) designations. They utilized that knowledge to develop the AOC project planning.

On July 1, the team celebrated the AOC becoming operational with a welcome party that included the Hobby team, division managers, supervisors, and employees from all business units.

“This transition creates an even higher level of efficiency and sustainability for HAS,” Rambo said. “We are further enhancing the passenger experience while supporting our core values and living out our mission, vision, and strategic values.”

And, she added, “By all means, whether customer, visitor, or staff member - if you see something, say something.”