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This Major U.S. Airport Aims High with Interoperable Crisis Communication

"It’s hard to put a price on how valuable BlackBerry AtHoc has been for our organization. The efficiency and coordination it enables, plus the situational awareness it promotes, have all been instrumental in keeping our people safe. And the support from BlackBerry has been fantastic."
— Vice President of Airport Operations

A major travel hub, this airport also takes a unique approach to emergency preparedness. As a common-use facility, the airport owns and operates its own technology, and also maintains its own police force and fire department. Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, it was also one of the largest and fastest growing in the country.

Efficiently manage all situations and daily operations through a singular platform.

Ability to design 200 templates categorized by incident type and severity to cover all issues and operations.

Empower critical staff by giving full insights into situation immediately during emergencies.

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The Turbulence of Segregated Infrastructure

The Turbulence of Segregated Infrastructure

The capacity to quickly connect with everyone from emergency responders to external personnel is critical. The airport’s existing communications system had all the necessary components to accomplish this, except for one. It needed the capacity to integrate everything into a single platform.

Initially, the airport relied on a complex web of channels, including pagers, phones, PA systems, an extensive network of digital displays, approximately 700 Cisco® IP phones, and an SMS alerting solution. Managers were forced to oversee the flow of information for each of these separate components, making even a minor incident both chaotic and complex for the operations center. Distribution also proved challenging, as operations center personnel struggled to maintain an accurate list of external contacts and lacked a simple means of communicating with external organizations. 

“Our old system would often send out alerts hours after an event was concluded, and there was also a lot of duplication of effort,” explains the airport’s Vice President of Airport Operations. “If something happened, I’d have to spend at least the first ten or fifteen minutes trying to call different people to tell them what was going on. It made coordination quite challenging.” 

Getting Better Coordination Off the Ground

Seeking to address the myriad of issues with its communication system, the airport approached BlackBerry, and BlackBerry® AtHoc® proved precisely what the organization needed. Designed to help organizations prepare for, respond to, and recover from disruptive events, AtHoc provided the perfect level of simplicity, flexibility, scalability, and interoperability.

AtHoc’s implementation was planned in two phases. The first phase focused on unifying the airport’s communications infrastructure, allowing the airport to send out mass notifications via smartphone, SMS, email, and Cisco IP phones. The second phase further unified the system to include digital displays while also allowing interoperability with other organizations.

The airport has devised approximately 200 templates, organized by both incident type and severity. They cover the full scope of issues the airport faces in its day-to-day, including power outages, fuel spills, weather events, aircraft malfunctions, and human threats. It has also integrated with 21 external organizations, including first responders in the area.

The airport’s total deployment currently consists of 1,800 licenses. This is only the beginning, however. Since the initial phases of its implementation, the airport has also considerably deepened its relationship with BlackBerry.  

Connecting Teams Through BlackBerry AtHoc

Connecting Teams Through BlackBerry AtHoc

Initially, the airport started using AtHoc’s ability to send and receive rich media to a much larger degree, and also greatly increasing its usage of the AtHoc mobile app. More recently, it integrated BlackBerry AtHoc with Microsoft Teams®. When the operations center sends out an alert, it can now choose to include a link to open a Microsoft Teams video call. This allows the organization to empower critical staff with situational awareness right away in the event of an emergency. 

“The Teams integration has really been a home run and immensely valuable,” the VP explains. “The initial call includes several major stakeholders, including both myself and the airport’s Chief Operating Officer. By having that call within the first ten minutes or so of an event, we can get everyone on the same page before each of us breaks off for functional, area-specific coordination.” 

Clear Skies Ahead

Thanks to BlackBerry AtHoc, this airport no longer has to worry about juggling a series of complicated communication channels. Instead, all communication can be carried out via a single system, allowing the airport to efficiently manage a variety of situations, from common scenarios like a blocked door to extreme incidents like an active shooter. More importantly, it allows the operations center to keep everyone from leadership to external personnel apprised of developing scenarios. 

“We’re currently working on getting AtHoc deployed to our police officers and some of our other emergency responders,” notes the VP. “We’re also attempting to onboard our terminal operations team, which manages COVID safety measures. And we constantly seek new ways to more effectively implement not just BlackBerry AtHoc, but other tools and capabilities within BlackBerry’s solutions portfolio.  

“Ultimately, BlackBerry AtHoc has been easy to integrate, greatly improved our situational awareness, and saved us a great deal of time in our incident response process,” he concludes. “BlackBerry also takes a very personal touch with its clients. That’s an element that’s missing in a lot of technology companies – they lose that focus.” 

International Airport




North America