Terrorist attacks, whether by suicide bombers or planted explosives, were considered remote possibilities in the western hemisphere … until explosions created mass casualties in Madrid and London.
The vulnerability of the largest transit systems underscores the need for all public transportation providers in the U.S. – including relatively isolated locations in Idaho – to develop training programs and safety and security plans.
ITD’s Division of Public Transportation launched a series of statewide training sessions this summer through a national leader in emergency preparedness. Communique USA, Inc., presented administrative-level sessions in St. Maries July 18, 19 and in Twin Falls, July 21, 22.
Among the participating public transportation providers in the first group were Valley Transit of Lewiston, Valley Vista Care Corporation of St. Maries, Special Mobility Services of Spokane, North Idaho Community Express of Coeur d’Alene, the Coeur d’Alene Tribe and Senior Hospitality Center of Bonners Ferry.
The second session included representatives of Trans IV of Twin Falls, Peak Bus of Ketchum and the Blaine County Department of Disaster Services.
Two more sessions are planned: Aug. 29, 30 in Nampa for providers in the Treasure Valley area and Sept. 1, 2 in Pocatello for transit organizations in southeastern Idaho.
Training is designed to help each of the providers meet a Federal Transit Authority mandate to have a Safety and Emergency Preparedness Plan (SEPP) by the end of 2006.
Communique also will follow the administrative training with specific training at each provider site for operations staff and to help them complete the SEPP if they choose, said Cheri Elms, grants and contracts analyst for ITD’s Public Transportation division.
The company based in Aspen, Colo., provided a daylong awareness program on transit emergency management for Idaho transit providers’ administrative staff two years ago. The current training builds on what providers previously learned.
“Response to the session was very favorable and many attendees request additional training and technical assistance,” explained Gary Gleason of Communique. “The recent terrorist bombing of the metro system in London, followed by the Department of Homeland Security warning of possible terrorist attacks on U.S. Transit systems this summer, have highlighted the importance of training and technical assistance in establishing safety and security plans.”
The objective of the training, Gleason explains, is to “assist Idaho transit providers in developing emergency response plans that help them fulfill their responsibilities as First Preventers, First Responders and First Targets.”
Communique’s trainers – Gleason and Ream Lazaro are considered national experts in emergency preparedness and training. They have worked with a number of other states, Elms explains, and Ream has provided training for the National Transit Institute at Rutgers University in New York.
The training and ensuing plans developed in Idaho will address more than terrorist attacks, Elms emphasizes. It will help public transportation providers respond to natural disasters such as floods and fires, community emergencies and operational safety issues. In fact, the need to train agencies and help them develop response plans dates to the late 1990s (before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in New York, Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania).
The national mandate was in response to a report by the National Transportation Safety Board and a rash of serious bus accidents. States are working to ensure all federal grantees have safety plans that include six key elements:
States have worked together through the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials (AASHTO) and the Florida Department of Transportation to establish a Web site on best practices at the University of South Florida Center for Urban Transportation Research. Information is available at http://www.cutr.usf.edu/bussafety/