The Ebola Report

Bruce Barclay

After watching CBS correspondent Lara Logan’s report on 60 Minutes a few weeks ago, I began thinking of the effect Ebola has on the people of Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea. As of last week, there were more than 13,200 cases confirmed and more than 5,000 deaths in the three countries where the virus is widespread. Logan and her crew are finishing a 21-day quarantine in their hotel as a precautionary measure; fortunately, they have shown no signs of infection with the virus.

As much as the television story moved me to think of the situation in West Africa, I began to think closer to home and the impact the virus can have here in the U.S. Since an airport would be the primary point of entry for travelers who may be carrying the Ebola virus, the U.S. government selected five airports for entry screening: JFK, Newark, Chicago O’Hare, Washington Dulles, and Atlanta. These five airports receive more than 94 percent of the travelers departing from the Ebola-affected countries.  But, what if the individual is not showing any symptoms when they arrive at one of these airports? It is conceivable the infected person may slip through the screening process and arrive in one of our cities. What happens to the car or taxi he hires?

I’m sure there are lots of us thinking about what would happen if an Ebola-infected traveler arrived at our airports and was detained because of symptoms of the virus. Do we need to be ready for parking-area quarantine? What are the protocols for airline personnel, first responders, and EMS staff? What do our parking attendants need to know? Fortunately, the Center for Disease Control has provided guidance for personnel who may have to deal with potential Ebola infections. The CDC provides a great deal of information on its website ranging from prevention, signs and symptoms, and diagnosis, to preparedness for health care workers.

Advances in transportation technology are making the world’s population more mobile. As a result, the threat of Ebola and other diseases hitting our shores is a reality.

Where Were You?

Bruce Barclay

Today marks the 13th anniversary of the tragic events of September 11, 2001. Almost everyone in America beyond their teenage years remembers where they were and what they were doing on that horrific day. Certain historical markers are embedded in our memory forever. Baby boomers remember their whereabouts on the days when JFK, Martin Luther King, and Robert Kennedy were assassinated. Individuals born in the ’60s and later have September 11 as an unforgettable memory that will linger long into their future.

September 11, 2001 was a date that affected the population of the United States on many different levels. The New York Stock Exchange was closed after the planes hit the Twin Towers and remained closed until the following Monday. The day it reopened, the Dow fell more than 684 points to close at 8920.70, down 7.13 percent.  Bond markets were also hit especially hard. Cantor Fitzgerald, a major government bond trader, lost many employees in the disaster. Their offices were located on the upper floors at One World Trade Center, the first building hit in the attack.

September 11’s impact on society was immediate. The U.S. aviation industry took enormous hits. On September 10, 2001 there were more than 38,000 flights. On September 12, 2001, there were only 252 commercial flights.* It took more than a week for U.S. flights to return to normal schedules. In the aftermath of 9/11, President Bush signed the Aviation and Transportation Security Act, (ATSA), which created the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). The ATSA mandated important changes in civil aviation security procedures, some of which we have become very familiar with when we travel. The first was the implementation of passenger security screening at all U.S. commercial airports, and the second was the screening of all checked baggage. Gone were the days when we could arrive at the airport 30 minutes before our flight and make the gate with time to spare.

From my perspective, September 11, 2001 started off as a normal day, with beautiful blue skies and sun over Newark Airport. I was general manager for the contract parking operations at Newark International and was in our valet operation just before 8:45 am. Local news events were being broadcast on TV in valet when there was an interruption in the broadcast— a small twin engine plane had just crashed into the World Trade center. My immediate thought was how could that happen on such a clear day?

My valet manager and I went to the roof of the parking garage adjacent to valet. What we saw was shocking. Thick gray smoke was pouring out of the top of the North Tower into the sky. We were about eight miles as the crow flies from the Trade Center and could see the events unfold in front of us. We quickly went back to valet for further news updates. As we reached the TV, the second plane hit the South Tower. “The second strike could not have been an accident,” is what I repeated to my peers. When the Towers collapsed, lower Manhattan was enveloped in a cloud of dust. The next few hours at Newark Airport were filled with anxiety and lots of misinformation. It did not help that the cellular systems were overloaded, making communication a challenge. I kept looking to the east seeing the continuous plume of smoke rising from the fallen Towers. It is a sight that I will never forget.

The Napa Earthquake: Lessons for Parking

Bruce Barclay

On Sunday August 24, the town of Napa, Calif., was hit with an earthquake measuring 6.0 on the Richter scale. The quake hit at approximately 3:20 a.m., rocking the scenic community and leaving residents dazed and fearful of aftershocks, more than 100 of which have been reported so far.

A positive was there was no loss of life. However, more than 120 people were treated at local hospitals, three in critical condition. Damage to the town was extensive. Especially hard-hit was the downtown historic area, where many older building were red tagged by city officials and deemed too dangerous for people to enter. Water and gas lines were ruptured causing fires throughout the community, and low water pressure caused by main line leaks made fighting the fires a challenge. Power outages in the region affected almost 70,000 residents, but power was restored to most communities within 24 hours of the earthquake.

The drain that an earthquake has on local resources is enormous. Napa Fire Department Operations Chief John Callanan told reporters the city had exhausted its resources trying to extinguish fires, transport injured residents, search homes for anyone who might be trapped, and answer calls about gas leaks and downed power lines. California Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency in the area, which will provide additional resources in the aftermath of the quake.

The quick response in Napa by first responders was no accident. Planning, preparation, and training for such events were critical to a successful response. Responders may have received some of their training through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the National Incident Management System (NIMS) Training Program. NIMS Training is intended for all personnel directly involved in emergency management and response. This includes emergency medical personnel, hospitals, public health, fire service, law enforcement, public works/utilities, skilled support, and volunteer personnel. The training is intended to aid people who don’t usually work together seamlessly respond to and recover from a disaster, either natural or man-made.

Each segment of the parking industry should have a disaster/emergency plan in place. Some may be on a rather small scale, but others may be very detailed and cover a wide range of potential disasters. I encourage all parking professionals to get involved and enroll in NIMS training. Gaining the knowledge and training required to participate in a disaster rescue/recovery, no matter how small your involvement may appear, is satisfying and rewarding. You never know, it may even help save a life.

For more information on NIMS training visit: fema.gov/national-incident-management-system/training.

Using Social Media to Assess Your Parking Identity

Bruce Barclay

A question I ask myself from time to time is how the traveling public views the airport’s parking and shuttle service? Is it merely a means to an end or is it viewed as a valuable component to the overall airport experience? As Salt Lake Airport’s parking manager, I believe we are a valuable asset, but with only a few options to gauge customer feedback we are left with a customer service conundrum.

Guest satisfaction surveys and comments to our webmaster via email are the traditional methods for feedback, but customers don’t always care to respond in this fashion and their voice is not heard. They may share their experience with relatives and friends, but not directly with us. We wanted to be able to hear firsthand from our customers to better measure our level of service, and address the areas where we may fall short.

Last May, Salt Lake City International Airport added a public relations and marketing manager to the staff. One area of responsibility she was tasked with was developing our social media programs, which hadn’t been done due to staff constraints. She began to tweet important information regarding the availability of space in our garage, which fills up weekly, along with information regarding our upcoming terminal redevelopment project. Within a few weeks, our social media platform grew and gained momentum.

In just a few short months, our Facebook followers have grown to more than 13,000, and we have more than 2,500 followers on Twitter. Although we know those are not huge numbers, the increase over such a short time has been dramatic. Even more impressive is the fact we are now getting timely feedback from the public, especially as it relates to parking and shuttle services. The messages received have given us greater clarity on the level of service we provide on a daily basis, and allow us to share passenger experiences with employees and their supervisors. Just as importantly, we can easily respond to all social media communication—positive and negative—in an expeditious fashion. By establishing a foundation of communication with the Salt Lake community, we are quickly finding out what our identity is, and how we are perceived by the traveling public.

So…what’s your identity? Comment below.

Airport Redevelopment: The Effect on Parking

Bruce Barclay

Construction projects can be challenging for parking operations in all segments of the industry. The rerouting of existing and/or construction of new roadways, building of new terminal space, construction of rental car facilities, and of course, building new parking facilities can all have an effect on airport parking operations.

Salt Lake City International Airport’s Terminal Redevelopment Program will contain all of the above projects, plus a few more. Commencing in June 2014, SLC will begin a $1.8 billion project that will last more than five years. The challenges our parking operations will face during that time are not unique to SLC; many airports (universities, municipalities, and medical center campuses) will encounter them throughout various phases of construction. They include:

  • Planning: Airport master plans outline short, medium, and long-term development plans to meet future aviation demand. Looking into the crystal ball by way of aviation demand forecasts is helpful, but  events can change that demand, (think September 11, 2001, and the recession of 2008-2009). How many garage levels and spaces are optimal for now and into the future?
  • Facility design: The need to rightsize the design for present and future needs is critical. The old “Field of Dreams” adage of “If you build it, they will come,” may not hold true.
  • Marketing: Replacing obsolete facilities will necessitate educating the traveling public on the benefits of redevelopment. Community outreach and partnerships will help get the word out. An open-house format is effective in engaging the public and soliciting their opinions.
  • Construction: How will customers react to reconfiguration of traffic routing and shuttle routes?
  • Maintaining customer service levels: How can you maintain the high service standards you have in place while construction is ongoing?
  • Market share: How can you maintain market share and prevent leakage to off-airport competition?

The above are only a few of the challenges faced during a lengthy construction project. Each of these may ebb and flow as work continues. It is imperative that parking professionals stay involved in as many aspects of the construction process as we can. Ultimately, our operations will be affected; if we are not prepared, the consequences can be severe.

Can EMV Protect us from Cybercriminals?

Bruce Barclay

By now, we have all heard of the upcoming transition to “smart chip” technology for credit cards. The U.S. is one of the last countries to move to EMV chip technology–we are in year two of a four-year plan for the migration, with a target date of October 2015 for card issuers and merchants to complete their implementation of EMV chip cards, terminals, and processing systems.

The migration cannot come soon enough for many consumers. Consider the Target breach from November/December 2013. Target said the attackers gained access to customer names, credit card/debit numbers, expiration dates, and CVV security codes. The Wall Street Journal reported the thieves accessed the data from the magnetic stripes on the back of credit and debit cards. Would this have been the case if the U.S. was already using chip technology?  Experts say no.

At a recent Congressional Subcommittee hearing, Randy Vanderhoof, executive director of the Smart Card Alliance, testified about cybercrime in the U.S. In 2013, data breaches became more damaging, with one in three people receiving a data breach notification letter. This is up from one in four during 2012. The increase in cybercrime against retailers is partly due to the fact that magnetic stripe card information is valuable to hackers.

The black market price for several million card accounts stolen from the Target breach was between $26.60 and $44.80 each prior to December 19, 2013. EMV chip cards can reduce financial cybercrime by removing the economic incentive for criminals. Once we replace magnetic stripe cards with EMV chip cards, the risks of duplicated data and counterfeit credit cards will become a thing of the past.

IPI’s webinar, EMV and its Effect on the Parking Industry, will take place today at 2:00 p.m. EST. Sign up and plan to take part. Click here to read Vanderhoof’s testimony.

 

 

Every Day a Holiday? Maybe Soon for Airports

Bruce Barclay

Think back to the days when going to Grandma’s house for the holidays meant a quick drive across town. Today, it may mean driving to the airport, finding a parking space, and boarding a plane to get across the state or even the country. Maneuvering through airline checks and TSA security challenging enough–especially this time of year–but finding a parking space at the airport can be just as difficult.

Parking at airports for Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, and Christmas presents unusual challenges. Travelers are looking for deals on airfare and the lowest priced parking available, so they are willing to park in the lower-cost economy lots. The large influx of parkers in a span of a day or two often fills the economy parking space, forcing the operator to pack vehicles into every nook and cranny in the lot. When that fills, overflow lots and other creative parking measures are implemented. Most parking managers are happy to contain the traffic into their facilities and maximize the revenue for the holiday period.

What if this pattern became the norm and not just a holiday event? A recent article in USA Today cites a study projecting that within a decade, 24 of the 30 busiest U.S. airports will become as congested twice every week as they are the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. Several airports will experience the holiday-style crush twice weekly in as little as three years. Why will this occur? More people are traveling and airline consolidation has funneled more passengers through key hubs. Experts worry that if the congestion is not addressed at these airports, longer security lines, delayed flights, and unhappy consumers will be the result. Airport master plans will accommodate the necessary infrastructure to meet the demand for more gates, parking, and ancillary facilities. The larger question that needs to be asked is, what are the ramifications of this congestion, and how will it affect parking at these airports?