Business Continuity- A Key Aviation Security Component ICAO SARP’s Regularly Omit & Fails To Address !

Simply put- the uninterrupted availability of key resources to support essential air transport processes or aviation business continuity for that matter, from an Aviation Security Management perspective is an issue the industrial leadership hardly thinks much about, yet threats particularly those from the ever increasing list of both probable and possible Acts of Unlawful Inferences perpetrated against the industry are massive, terrorism being top of the list at this point in time.

Were we to look at any of the so called International Standards and Recommended Practices-SARPs, those parts of the aviation Gospel presumably anointed by the International Civil Aviation Organization-ICAO, the UN specialized agency for all matters aviation, to help deliver the industry to the promised land ? The result is nothing worth smiling about, and am not talking about the complexities of having to send the mythical Rambo to retake a skyjacked flight from enemy hands, for a flight to continue peacefully, since to some that too is business continuity.

Am talking about the unforeseen emergencies, far more complex than the once every two years combined simulation shortcuts in the name of airport emergency drills most covering a hijack or air crash scenario, often used to hoodwink auditors from an Annex 17 perspective as well as kill the airport certification bird as required under Annex 14 Chapter 9 protocols, which tends to concentrate more on how fast the fire and rescue teams mobilize from station into theatre. The renown under 3 minutes rule for that matter.

Am talking about the reality of today’s world, that of the likes of the devilish ISIS finding Saddam Hussein’s stockpile, making weapons of mass destruction WMD, supplying like minded anarchists the Al Shabab, Boko Haram, Houthi, ISIS in Syria, Al Qaeda remnants and of course their slipper cells in Europe. As if that is not a worry enough, then comes the other side of nature and its Acts of the Hand of God, although for argument’s sake one may say it is not possible to foresee every conceivable type of aviation emergency. From pandemic outbreaks, hurricanes, volcanoes, snow storms, floods, earthquakes, tsunamis, strikes, to the man made madness of industrial strikes and civil strife all of which can easily bring the aviation industry to its knees without notice, have a security connotation in them and would call for a proper business continuity rejoinder immediately after their occurrence, but continue to be ignored if not deliberately omitted from the ICAO aviation security oriented SARP’s.

Looking Annex 17 Chapter 5 on the Management Response to Acts of Unlawful Interference, the revered Doc 8973, 732 paged Aviation Security Manual 9th Edition 2014’s Appendix 17 on Emergency Preparedness and Crisis Management, though it categorically acknowledges emergency preparedness and crisis management as two essential elements of the overall security system at an airport (as if it is the only important component of the entire aviation infrastructure) since emergencies can have serious consequences for the image and reputation of a State and the concerned airport(s) it falls short of addressing Business Continuity albeit passively yet, it surely is an integral part of aviation security management. From the appropriate authority side of the coin, that of the CAA’s for that matter the newly released Doc 10047 on the Establishment and Management of a State Aviation Security Oversight System, which covers the 8 Critical Elements that are the corner stone of an effective National Oversight system, zero Business Continuity is mentioned let alone passively.

When it comes to the current training modalities in use for the preparation of would be aviation security personnel or even those enhancing the knowledge of existing personnel, what exists is a distant relative of the reality as such, falls short of addressing the much needed awareness and operationalization of Business Continuity as a key concept that supports Aviation Security Management principles and their continuity during and post crisis. Neither the Aviation Security Training Package-ASTP 8 Module one week Crisis Management Training Course, and or the much higher accolade forums of the ICAO AVSEC PM run in conjunction with Concordia University’s John Molson School of Business and or the European Certified Aviation Security Manager Course at the prestigious European Aviation Security Training Institute-EASTI Belgium address business continuity with the seriousness it deserves either, let alone mention it.

With the way things are panning out, particularly terrorists upping their ingenuity to continuously keep making fools of us in the aviation security profession, it is time to focus on the aviation security management processes, systems and staff, exposures from aftermaths of the various different incidences, since they have indiscriminate impact on aviation operations as a whole. There is a very pertinent need to establish if not embrace by replicating already operational Business Continuity Management Systems in other sectors to cover the range of operational threats that our sector faces. We cannot keep singing about risk-based approaches to manage disruptions, whilst we keep doing zero about it. Yet there are multiple scenarios which can cause potentially devastating impacts for all the supporting operational segments of that collectively form what we are today calling aviation business.

We must at the very least borrow from the collective way the entire world, with the help of the likes of the World Health Organization-WHO reacts, and the frontline participation from industrial stalwarts ICAO, IATA and Airport Council International-ACI during pandemics, particularly the informed angle of pandemics having direct and indirect impacts. Where the direct impacts are well understood and the focus is thus, mostly driven towards planning and resilience activities. There is need for business continuity management to henceforth form an integral part of the aviation security risk management framework within the entire industrial stakeholding.

Lest we forget, all industrial players face a variety of risks, be they the CAA, the airport, the airlines, the airport police, the catering, cargo, or refuse collection contractor. These may be sourced externally, and therefore largely out of the immediate control of the stakeholder, or internally. Internal risks arise both at the strategic (organisation-wide) level and at the operational (business process) level, a situation the use of trusted insiders in perpetrating acts of unlawful interference, clearly spells for us. Business continuity simply means maintaining the uninterrupted availability of all key aviation resources required to support essential air transport activities.

Aviation business strategies and decisions are based on an assumption of the operations continuing against all odds. An event that violates this assumption is a significant occurrence in the life of any stakeholder(s), impinging directly on their ability to fulfil their operational objectives and the livelihood of those involved. Among other things, aviation security risk management as the business continuity component we preach, is about putting in place treatments that seek to prevent operational interruption events (outages) from occurring in the first place. It also encompasses establishing appropriate responses (treatments) should such an event inevitably occur.

Business continuity management is therefore that part of aviation security risk management that establishes cost-effective treatments should an outage occur. As such, it deals with actual events, a risk event which has occurred and the action required to respond to the event. To this extent, it complements the overall risk management process which deals foremost with possibility of occurrence of risks events (including outages) that may occur, and the analysis and or pro-active treatment of such events.

The bottom line simply is that the objective of business continuity management in aviation security management is to ensure the uninterrupted availability of all key resources required to support essential (or critical) air transport operational activities. As such all aviation security standards and recommended practices- SARP’s revisions must therefore consider its importance and build it into the existing systems, as opposed to simply just adding it on.