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Security Expert Warns "Keep Your Guard Up" at 2012 Olympics

July 23, 2012

NBAA Flight Plan podcast interview with security expert Matt Burdette

It’s a biennial celebration of international sportsmanship and the world’s most prestigious athletic competition, but the 2012 Summer Olympics is also a potentially risky place for your flightcrew.

“It’s going to be a lot larger in terms of attendance than other recent Olympics in Greece or China,” said Matt Burdette, chief of intelligence for FrontierMEDEX, a Houston, TX-based company that provides security and intelligence to clients who operate overseas. “Because of better infrastructure and the proximity of London, they’re expecting anywhere up to 8 million spectators, athletes, journalists and sponsors.”
That means London could double in size during the games, which run from July 27 to Aug. 12.

The possibility of a terror event is small, but not insignificant, according to Burdette. From a security standpoint, it is much more likely London could see a strike or a number of demonstrations linked to the Olympics, sponsors or causes not even remotely associated with the events. Of course, crime will be a major concern as well, given what Burdette termed a “target rich environment” of visitors – many of them from other countries.

“Make sure there is backup and support for flightcrews,” Burdette suggested. “That’s usually the kind of concern we see in good measure when it comes to company executives. But flightcrews will likely be collaterally exposed.”

That exposure could be linked to the two areas where a mass of people are most likely to cause problems: The transportation infrastructure and the information infrastructure.

“Even with London’s excellent transportation infrastructure, which is designed for large capacity use, so many people will be a challenge. That means there will be a lot of competition for ground transportation. Limos are already all taken. Cabs will be plentiful, but they’re likely to be sucked up pretty fast. If there is an emergency, you may have to consider alternatives,” said Burdette.

Likewise, the Olympics will put a remarkable burden on Great Britain’s information infrastructure, including mobile broadband, Wi-Fi and telephone service.

“Even as wired as London is, you’re going to have significant bandwidth draw on hardlines, cell phones and Wi-Fi,” he observed.

In the event of an emergency, Burdette warned air crews, along with their passengers, need alternatives:

  • Check in every day. Burdette recommends a central clearinghouse for both VIPs and flightcrews to leave messages and updates on their location, status and activities.  “A lot of times, it’s easier to get an international call out than to make a domestic one, so consider designating a call-in number back home in the U.S.,” he said.
  • Keep a phone list handy so you can get in touch with others in your party.
  • If the phones are down, try texting. “Text uses much less bandwidth,” Burdette said. “In the event of an emergency, it’s very likely cell phones and even hard lines will jam. But you might be able to get a text message through.”
  • Establish a rally point. “If you can’t communicate, get everyone to a safe place. It may be a hotel or a company’s London office. In an emergency, roads and even airports might be shut down. So go to that safe gathering point, then travel as a group to a location where you can shelter in place,” he added.
  • Be aware that criminals will target Olympics attendees. “Be hyper-aware of your surroundings. Keep a close watch on your cell phone, computer tablet or other electronic device because there are likely to be both pickpockets and those who want to steal whatever data they can on you and your company,” said Burdette.
  • Stay together. “If you get separated, you worry about people. You can’t take action or make a realistic plan without being together. Don’t try to do something on your own,” Burdette warned.

For more information, visit NBAA's London 2012 Olympics resource page.