The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has launched its newly re-designed website, offering a simplified approach to the content, with streamlined access to DHS services and information. With the recent passing of the 11th anniversary of the September 11 terror attacks, DHS is reminding the American people, and especially transportation professionals, how everyone can help year-round in the effort to not only help prevent another attack, but to know how to assist law enforcement in different types of emergencies.
While actual incidents of attacks have declined in the past two years, it is not for lack of trying. Security officials deal with threats on a daily basis, from holiday gatherings to
sporting events to attempted cyber attacks, the nation is very busy in its attempts to prevent damage and destruction. A DHS initiative called the First Observer Program is a national safety and security program that recruits volunteers from the transportation
industry to act as the nation’s “First Observer” in reporting emergency situations and suspicious activities to authorities of either a criminal or potentially terrorist nature. Highway professionals have a “vast array of visibility throughout their everyday processes, and also the ability to notice activities that appear out of the ordinary.”
Another DHS public awareness campaign is If You See Something, Say Something, and again, transportation professionals are in a unique position to recognize potential dangers. Limousine drivers often pass by the same location several times during the day. Are there any unattended packages that were not there before and seem out of place? Is there suspicious activity near or on a bridge or overpass? Do you see the same people taking pictures or videotaping a location, sometimes in the same spot over a period of a few days? Is there odd behavior outside a large venue like a sporting event where you are parked and waiting for your passengers?
On a spring Saturday night two years ago in Times Square, New York City, a street vendor and Vietnam veteran by the name of Lance Orton who had operated his vendor cart from the same spot for more than 22 years, noticed smoke coming from a carelessly parked SUV with the motor still running and its hazard lights on. Sensing that
something just wasn’t right, he hailed a mounted police officer, told him what he observed and almost instantly, police were on the scene evacuating the area. A crude bomb made from three propane canisters, two five-gallon cans of gasoline and two clocks with batteries was discovered in the process of detonating, but had malfunctioned. The culprit, who admitted the act was terrorism-related, was arrested two days later due to the diligence of Federal agents and NYPD. When asked what motivated him to report the incident to police, Mr. Orton said, “When you see something, say something!”