COVID-19 ravages transportation system; TSA offers help

Monday, May 4, 2020
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The COVID-19 pandemic has ravaged America’s transportation system, and TSA is offering some assistance.

In response to COVID-19, TSA’s Intermodal Security Training and Exercise Program (I-STEP) Exercise Information System® (EXIS) has released a new tabletop exercise scenario to help surface transportation operators plan for disruptions to supply chains and improve organizational communication. It covers all mission areas from prevention through recovery for all modes of surface transportation including mass transit and passenger rail, buses, trucks and postal and shipping.

TSA’s Policy, Plans, and Engagement created the scenario template.

“The goal of the scenario template is to help organizations better prepare for, respond to, and recover from disruptions caused by COVID-19-related issues,” said EXIS® Project Manager Keturah Lee. “Long term, organizations will have the opportunity to upload essential lessons learned that have stemmed from this real world event.”   

Because of drastic declines in ridership, some bus and mass transit routes have closed.  COVID-19 has also disrupted global supply chains. While shipments by trucks and freight rail continue, operators have had to adapt to social distancing measures and reduce risk to employees who continue to work.

EXIS® contains a storehouse of best practices and lessons learned, including ones related to biological threats and public area security.

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Key lessons learned include considering:

  • Standard operating procedures reflect the safety and legal considerations associated with implementing temporary protective measures
  • Public messages and information are coordinated with federal, state, and local health officials
  • Employees and first responders wear personal protective equipment, such as masks and gloves, to mitigate potential secondary contamination

“I-STEP also developed an exercise guide to help stakeholders jumpstart efforts to stay prepared and resilient during and after a pandemic,” said I-STEP Project Manager Ed Detwiler. “It helps users quickly scope exercise objectives and key questions to help facilitators guide exercise conduct and evaluate situations.”

Because of the COVID-19 social distancing measures currently in place, I-STEP suggests surface transportation operators consider a tabletop exercise like this as their resources allow.

These plans and TSA’s partnership with surface stakeholders can assist in preparing transportation operators not only to work through the current COVID-19 pandemic but extreme conditions in the future as well.