As we remember the 9/11 attacks of 10 years ago, our memories may be flooded with sadness and loss. However, much has been learned and achieved in the 10 years since the tragic event. The transit industry has made great strides in the areas of security and safety.
“Prior to 9/11 what we had in the industry was calmer approaches toward security and policing,” comments Greg Hull, American Public Transit Association (APTA) director of operations for safety and security programs. Hull explains that prior to 9/11 APTA had worked with the Federal Transit Administration to develop common approaches toward system safety, which included security and emergency preparedness.
He says: “We did in fact have standardized formats for the development of plans for systems safety, system security and emergency management planning. So those mechanisms were already in place and in fact, starting in 1996 when the FTA came out with the State Safety Oversight legislation for those transit systems that had rail operations were from that point forward required to go through an audit to ensure that security systems, safety systems, emergency management operations procedures were all in place in accordance to the plans that had been developed. I think that’s a very important aspect of what we had in place.”
Hull says that a very important aspect of what is in place in the United States – and all of North America – is that there is a very open sharing of information and resources among transit systems and agencies because our transit system is public.
“As security plans were being developed, as training plans were being developed, a lot of that was shared amongst the agencies and prior to 9/11, given what we knew had been occurring in the UK with the IRA bombings, given our knowledge of what had already been occurring in parts of Europe with terrorist style activities, Paris Metro and particularly in 1995 the sarin attack in Tokyo, all led to a heightened awareness as to the potential of terrorism within the public transit environment. It was certainly awareness and some basis upon which we were able to build and mechanisms that we had in place.”
Within hours of the 9/11 attacks Hull says “we were able to convene discussions among the senior management of our transit systems and the FTA, and we began to discuss what we might need to put into place, resources that needed to be created to assist our systems.”
Among the first things that were undertaken were financial resources being put into place by the FTA for vulnerability assessments to aid transit systems in refining their security plans and tightening up any aspects that needed to be addressed.
“We also saw direction to the National Academy’s Transportation Research Board to set aside funding in the order I believe it was $2 million to be specifically applied toward security related research, to develop research documents, guidance documents that would aid transit agencies in refining and developing further their approaches toward security and refining their security plans,” Hull explains.” We also saw that there was a need to set up a system whereby we could acquire information, security information, and security intelligence information.”
Through collaboration with the FTA, APTA developed the Public Transit Information Shared Analysis Center (PTISAC). PTISAC is a system whereby any transit agency, whether an APTA member or not, could receive information related to security and threats that would be of interest to the agencies on a 24 hours basis. Information would be sent out to designated contacts within the transit agency. Information comes through a variety of sources – FBI, CIA and TSA, Hull explains.
In the initial years following 9/11, the FTA provided APTA with grant funding to maintain the PTISAC system. Hull says that carries forward to today, however now the TSA has taken over the grant funding to APTA.