Chances are you’ve heard the popular childhood song “The Wheels on the Bus [Go Round and Round].”
TSA plays a key role in keeping the wheels on our nation’s buses go round and round to protect school children and travelers.
Representatives from TSA’s Surface Operations and the Intermodal Security Training and Exercise Program (I-STEP) joined forces with motorcoach operators and school transportation providers in a pair of transportation security workshops in Pennsylvania and Oklahoma.
“The security plan workshops allow TSA to engage [transportation] stakeholders and help them mitigate vulnerabilities,” said Lead TSA Inspector Aspara Agyeman, who served as the Region II lead for the motorcoach security plan workshop in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.
Similar to airplanes, our nation’s passenger and school buses face threats, and Agyeman said workshops like these allow TSA to position industry in the fight against terrorism.
“Bomb threats, suspicious bags and activity were a few of the threats discussed,” Agyeman explained. “In the Bethlehem workshop, motorcoach operators were asked what threats their companies face, and as they answered the question, we began asking if they have policies in place to address those threats, and we offered suggestions.”
Twenty bus companies and a scenic rail company participated.
Two days later, TSA’s I-STEP arrived in Duncan, Oklahoma, to help school transportation operators from four school districts strengthen their security plans and keep kids safer on school buses. The goal was to develop comprehensive security plans and heighten emergency preparedness.
TSA Inspector Jonathan Martinez, who served as the Region IV lead for the Oklahoma workshop, said that hands-on training allowed local school transportation operators to interact with each other as well as with experts from TSA to improve their ability to plan, prevent, mitigate, respond to and recover from any potential threat.
“There is a limited availability of security professionals in these industries, and local TSA inspectors are a great resource for these stakeholders,” Martinez noted. “In our region, pupil transportation, mass transit and the trucking industry are benefitting the most from TSA surface outreach programs.”
Deanna Felder and Jimmy Beasley are the co-leads for the TSA security plan workshops and say while TSA issues regulations, a large majority of surface transportation security oversight efforts are through non-mandatory assessments, exercises, training and other industry engagement.
“With consistently evolving threats to the transportation sector, it’s a necessary priority to have a comprehensive security and emergency plan,” said Felder. “Industry partners tell us how invaluable it is to have current plans that direct frontline operators and resources.”
Participants leave each workshop with a transportation security plan specific to their organization.
“The workshops provide highway and motor carrier operators the opportunity to collaborate with other industry partners and discuss security best practices,” Beasley added. “Our TSA inspectors enhance these relationships through their expert advice. The ability to work together and identify potential security gaps and mitigation measures help protect and improve overall security in the motorcoach, school bus and trucking industries.”
Mary Presley, Maryland Motorcoach Association executive administrator, said workshops like these are a valuable resource to prepare transportation operators for a possible terrorist incident.
“Maryland Motorcoach Association operator members all walked away with something they can use in their own organizations, and several of them are looking to the future and having TSA do a private session in their own companies,” Presley emphasized. “Thank you, TSA, for once again coming to the table with a valuable tool to keep our members and their customers secure.”
By Don Wagner, TSA Strategic Communications & Public Affairs