McCarran hits jackpot

October 2006 Surveillance

Airline reservations and flight information systems. Air traffic control. Baggage handling and access control. When you think about it, an airport is really a giant data centre with planes.

Lots of data, lots of applications, lots of users - all spread out over a large area. It is the perfect setting for a distributed, network-based video security system. And McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas is meeting security needs with flying colours.

McCarran has long been on the cutting edge of airport technology. For more than five years, the airport has employed an all-digital video system. With an older system that no longer met its needs, the airport sought a new solution - one that could evolve to accommodate future growth.

The video security system includes cameras in seven different buildings. Supporting this very large installation are 14 Endura 'A Blocks' - full racks each with a workstation, SEB5100 storage expansion boxes, and multiple decoders - housed in a dozen network closets around the airport.

One of the network closets that hold two Endura A Blocks also serves as a build-out room, lab and demo facility. "We test all new equipment here," explains Chad Norton, system technician, "and we use this room to configure new components and devices before we deploy them in the network. This is where we teach new users how to operate the system."

That list of users and user groups is long and growing: airport security; Transportation Security Agency personnel, parking attendants, baggage handling, Las Vegas Metropolitan Police, ramp control operators and more.

For security and safety reasons, it is important that these users see only the cameras they are supposed to see, and nothing else. The Endura System Manager takes care of this, assigning permissions on a user lever.

The energy in McCarran's central control station is palpable as a variety of security and other personnel keep their eyes on dozens of monitors and displays, accessing transportation information systems, getting the latest weather and traffic reports, and of course, viewing all cameras installed throughout the airport.

But because Endura is distributed, these users do not all have to cram into the control centre. They can monitor their specific areas of responsibility anywhere there is a network connection. The Transportation Security Agency at McCarran takes advantage of this flexibility. They have two mobile carts, each outfitted with an Endura WS5050 Workstation and monitor, allowing them to set up a command post anywhere they like along the network.

Las Vegas Metropolitan Police also rely on the system as they can monitor operations both from a small command post at the airport's video control centre as well as from a command station located at the police substation at McCarran. Metro officer Wayne Brown has been at the airport for a couple of years now. "The system is excellent," Brown shares. "We can zoom in instantly to see the situation clearly and relay information to officers on foot."

McCarran security operators are not only interested in what is going on at their own airport. McCarran is one of six airports comprising the Clark County Airport System, owned by Clark County, Nevada. The County Department of Aviation manages operations at all of these airports, including nearby Henderson Executive Airport and North Las Vegas Airport, which is the 39th busiest airport in the United States - busy enough that the FAA now requires stricter video surveillance. In the very near future, video security at these two airports will also be integrated into the McCarran Endura System.

Along with all the other benefits - reliability, scalability, and flexibility - it is important not to overlook another feature: ease of use. "When we first bring new users into our demo room to show them how to operate the Endura system we do not start by telling them what to do. We usually just set them loose on a keyboard and let them explore," explains Norton.

"Without exception, they all say the same thing: 'It is so easy to use!' Of course, we always follow up with thorough training, but that first experience has proven to be an important part of them adopting the system, and everyone takes to it immediately." Although selecting a complex video security solution can sometimes seem like a gamble, given all the benefits that McCarran is enjoying, it is clear that the airport has made an investment that will pay off for years to come.

For more information contact Wolfgang Engling, Pelco Southern Africa, +27 (0) 12 997 4109,

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