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The Airports Winning TSA’s Top Awards Share Their Secrets

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) team at Tweed New Haven Regional Airport (HVN) was named the top smaller-size Airport of the Year for 2019. The award, which was announced earlier this month, recognized the best of TSA with outstanding team achievements in security operations and mission support.

The Connecticut TSA team was recognized for its proactive actions in preparing for a possible active shooter event so that a coordinated response would be implemented.

“We reviewed the after action reports from the active shooter incidents at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport and LAX, and applied those lessons learned towards a developing a proactive response plan should something like that happen at our airports in Connecticut,” said William Csontos, TSA’s Federal Security Director for Connecticut.

Csontos directed his team to conduct a full scale active shooter practical exercise at HVN, but first the TSA Connecticut personnel needed to learn how to devise, plan and facilitate an event of this nature, because one had not previously been conducted in Connecticut. To do so, TSA staff attended an active shooter workshop in New York. They also partnered with other entities in the maritime industry through TSA’s surface transportation security division and participated in one of those exercises as evaluators. The information and knowledge that they gleaned ensured the team was prepared to develop and conduct an active shooter exercise in Connecticut, which they did in September 2018, when the TSA team successfully conducted a full scale active shooter drill at HVN in coordination with 10 law enforcement, military and first responder agencies and more than 100 role players.

“Today we work with our stakeholders and partners in public transportation to prepare for an incident tomorrow that we hope and pray will never come,” Csontos added. “But if that day should ever arrive, we intend to be ready for it.”

The preparedness that the TSA team took to respond to an active shooter was put to the test in March when a social media threat to HVN was reported, which threatened a mass casualty event. TSA immediately initiated the planned response, coordinating with the FBI and the many departments that had previously participated in the active shooter exercise.  Within one hour, a large contingent of law enforcement and military uniformed assets had conducted a well-coordinated and orderly search of the airport terminal and grounds, and had determined that it was safe for the travelling public. No flights were cancelled, and the FBI eventually determined that it was a non-credible threat.

The TSA team at Bradley International Airport also earned TSA’s annual Partnership Award, which recognized the group for its outstanding achievements promoting security partnerships across transportation systems in the region. The TSA team at BDL developed what it coined as a Collaborative Operations Between Response Agencies (COBRA) security team to serve as a coalition of law enforcement and military organizations as an effective quick response team in the event of an ongoing potential or impending threat to Connecticut transportation venues. In accordance with TSA Connecticut’s COBRA initiative, partnering agencies participated in random and unpredictable visible security operations to deter potential terrorist activity at select locations and venues including several ferry and rail terminals.

The participating agencies in COBRA deployments regularly include: TSA employees from Connecticut and  New York; the United States Coast Guard(USCG)law enforcement team; the Federal Air Marshals’ New England Visible Inter-modal Prevention and Response team (VIPR); the Federal Protective Service (FPS) police canine explosive detection teams; Naval Criminal Investigative services (NCIS); the CT and NY National Guard Civil Support Teams (CST); the Connecticut State Police (CSP) Mass Transit Security Team (MTST), the New York State Police, and the AMTRAK and MTA Police departments.

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The Government Technology & Services Coalition's Homeland Security Today (HSToday) is the premier news and information resource for the homeland security community, dedicated to elevating the discussions and insights that can support a safe and secure nation. A non-profit magazine and media platform, HSToday provides readers with the whole story, placing facts and comments in context to inform debate and drive realistic solutions to some of the nation’s most vexing security challenges.

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