“Airport communications centers” is the term most likely used to describe the location where a variety of functions occur at airports. Some of these functions include typical dispatch of emergency response (police and fire), maintenance requests, monitoring airport systems (e.g., CCTV, access control), public address paging, passenger customer service, and airside operations. These functions sometimes occur in “silos” whereby a department sets up a communications center either as a requirement (e.g, public safety answering point) or as a service to their passengers and tenants, staffed by their own department personnel. These call centers may not be referred to as communications centers, and staff from these departments may believe that an integrated approach would not benefit them, as they might feel a loss of control over their operation.
There are a myriad of factors that should be considered when determining the best way to provide those services to the public or to ensure adequate flow of information internally to other airport departments and externally. Some airports, and some communities, have set up integrated communications centers. These centers combine all of the communications and security functions and systems into the same location to achieve staffing efficiencies, or they have all been co-located with the intent to achieve communications efficiencies. There are challenges associated with this approach in the area of staffing and integrating systems.
These integrated communications centers are also known by different names at some airports such as an airport communications center, airport response coordinated center, and C-4, etc. However, they function similarly with respect to eliminating most if not all separate communications centers run within a single department. While most of these integrated communications centers have been at the larger airports, smaller airports may also want to consider integrating communications centers to achieve the same efficiencies.
With more and more technology being added to airport operations that require monitoring thus diverting the attention of communications center staff, there is the question of how much information can be absorbed so that employees can maintain situational awareness. There is research that has been conducted in human factors but there is no known link of the application of that research into the planning, design, and operation of a communications center at airports.
The objective of this research is to develop guidance for the planning, design, and operation of airport communications centers. The guidance should include, at a minimum, the following:
- Determining the right approach for setting up information/customer service, dispatch, and call center functions, as either as an integrated communications center or by function/department;
- Determining siting/location(s);
- Determining the systems and technologies (current and emerging) and system maintenance support;
- Data management and data security requirements;
- The impact of external entities on communication center operations;
- Redundancy and back-up planning;
- Staffing considerations;
- Strategies for working with stakeholders when establishing an integrated communications center and how to integrate the combined operations, including supervisory structure;
- Obstacles to transitioning to an integrated communications center;
- Layout considerations, including minimum and maximum staffing capacities and maintaining situational awareness;
- Lessons learned from the building and operation of both integrated and non-integrated communication centers;
- Tools/worksheets/checklists as appropriate for planning, designing, or operating a communications center;
- List of external resources that can be used in the planning stage; and
- Glossary of terms.