Canadian Consulting Engineer

What’s New (May 01, 2006)

May 1, 2006
By Canadian Consulting Engineer



Airport security at Pearson

How do you secure a 1,800-hectare site, one with 70,000 on-site employees, 30 million people a year passing through, as well as half a million aircraft movements? Answer: by thinking of Swiss cheese, according to James Bertram, director of security at Toronto Pearson International Airport. Bertram was a speaker at the 4th Annual Greater Toronto Area Transportation Summit held by Strategy Institute in Toronto on March 22.

Bertram explained that whereas Canada’s busiest airport used to model their security plan on a layered onion, they now use a model more like Swiss cheese. The model allows for the fact that each layer is not impervious, but the overlapping ensures there are no clear penetrations. The layered approach is “leaner” but more effective, and more financially and operationally viable over the long term.

Complicating the challenge of securing airports today is the heavy presence of the private sector. The government and the airport authority can no longer “puppeteer” relationships as it did decades ago, Bertram suggested. Instead the authority has to partner with the other organizations, which include 23 investigating agencies and 53 airlines.

The airport’s emergency plans were tested dramatically last August 2 during the crash landing of Air France Flight 358. Al1 297 passengers and the crew escaped minutes before the plane turned into an inferno. Bertram said the emergency response was a “text book” success and the only changes they have made since are “minor tweaking” of the communication systems.


Debate over post-9/11 safety measures

After the New York World Trade Center disaster of 2001, the National Institute of Standards and Technology in the U.S. (NIST) published a massive report last September with approximately 30 draft recommendations for ways of designing tall buildings of 420 feet or more to be more resistant to terrorism.

However, at a meeting in March, a technical committee of the International Code Council based in Falls Church, Virginia said that there was not enough substantial data to support the inclusion of the anti-terrorism features NIST recommended and that the cost impacts were not being adequately considered.

The major bone of contention is the idea that buildings should be designed for “disproportional collapse resistance.” There are also concerns over recommended stairwell “hardening,” emergency communication systems and sprayed-on fireproofing.

So far the ICC is discussing the issue only at the committee level. In September it will begin the formal hearing process.


Quantum physics keeps mum

University of Toronto researchers are developing quantum cryptography as a much more secure method for transmitting data. The technology uses photons carried in fibre optic cables.

Whereas conventional encryption is based on mathematical complexity that traditional computers can solve, quantum cryptography is based on the laws of physics — Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle. That principle says that merely observing a quantum object alters it.

If a hacker tries to eavesdrop on the quantum data stream to figure out the encryption key, the mere act of eavesdropping changes decoy photons in the stream and indicates tampering.

The technique was recently tested successfully over a 15-kilometre telecommunications fibre by Professor Hoi-Kwong Lo and his team.


Silent floor joists

The Association of Manitoba Municipalities wants the provincial and federal governments to make it mandatory for homes constructed with silent floor joists made of engineered wood to be labelled. Municipal firefighters don’t believe the joists hold up as well as traditional construction during a fire.


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