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Essential Traffic Control Equipment For Airports

Traffic control equipment is essential for maintaining safety and order in public airports.  To understand how challenging this task can be, here’s look at some statistic from Chicago O’Hare International Airport, one of dozens of large airports within the United States:

• Total passengers in 2011: 66.8 million

• Total number of employees: 40,000+

• Total area of facilities: 7,000 acres

• Total weight of cargo handled in 2011: 1.51 million tons

• Total number of art exhibits: 30

• Total number of parking spaces: 25,000+

In addition, Chicago O’Hare has on-site medical care, lounges, restaurants, two children’s play areas, restrooms, and hundreds of shops and other vendors.  Maintaining orderly pedestrian and vehicular traffic flow and safety in such an enormous facility requires not only dedicated, highly trained personnel but also a great deal of traffic control equipment.  The following are some of the products most commonly used in such environments:

• Posts/Bollards – These both mark boundaries and establish traffic flow patterns.  Depending on the immediate area they’re located in, they may take any of the following forms: flexible posts that are designed to bend rather than break if they’re struck by people, luggage, carts, etc. while still being durable enough to handle the abuse they go through; tubular markers that create and modify directional flow, not only in airports but also in all types of public facilities the world over; and large-diameter posts that are used when higher visibility and more resistance to collisions is needed than lighter-duty equipment can provide.  The latter range in size from a few inches in diameter to several feet.  Safety and security bollards fall into this category.

• Curbing – The amount of damage that pedestrians can cause is dwarfed by the potential destruction that a single large motor vehicle can inflict.  Curbing helps to guard against such catastrophes by keeping drivers and their machines where they’re supposed to be at all times.  Given the increasingly mobile nature of modern society, this is by far one of the most important types of traffic control equipment.  Curbing may be low or high profile, depending on the needs in a given area, and can serve as either a passive visual reminder or a formidable barrier, depending on its construction and placement.

• Signs – More so than any other type of traffic control equipment, signs help to keep everyday activities within airports flowing smoothly.  These signs fall into three broad categories: directional signs, which tell people where to go, may consist of simple arrows, complex graphics, or short blocks of text, and work alongside posts, markers, and curbing to keep everything moving in the right direction; informational signs which tell people what something is, such as the location of eateries, restrooms, medical aid stations, retail locations, terminals, walkways, stairs, elevators, escalators, and other resources; and caution/danger signs, which are a special type of traffic control equipment intended to keep people out of certain areas for their own safety and that of others.  The latter can range from STOP signs to public notices with detailed information in multiple languages, and they may stand by themselves or alongside physical barriers to prevent access to dangerous or sensitive locations.

Looking to the Future
Traffic control equipment serves a vital role in airport settings, and for them to continue doing so effectively, their design and construction must be periodically reviewed and revised to meet changing societal dynamics.  Some factors to consider in this process are: the aging of the population and the rise in the number of travelling seniors with specials needs; the diversity of society and the need for multi-lingual signs; and the growing role of technology so that traffic control equipment can become “smart” and feature interactive software.

Statistics show that more than one million people fly every day in the United States alone.  Ensuring the safety of these commuters and airport staff will present ever-increasing challenges to public and private officials in the years ahead.  Traffic control equipment will continue to play a vital role in helping these professionals work safely and effectively.