Success Stories: Transportation Security

A roundup of recent unique security applications & installations


Chicago Transit Authority: “If You See Something, Say Something”

Recent history shows that attacks similar to the subway bombings in London, Madrid, Moscow and even peaceful Minsk, are quite easy to orchestrate. The damage and casualties from those attacks are devastating, delivering a major blow to the economy and disrupting the fabric of life.

Most of the Transportation Security Administration’s $8.1 billion 2011 fiscal budget — or about 71 percent — is spent on securing our airlines. Only about 1 percent is spent on securing surface transportation. Unlike airport security, which relies on high-tech scanning equipment and heavy video surveillance, transportation security is dependent on eyes and ears of the general population.

The Chicago Transit Authority, the second largest transit agency in the nation providing services to 1.7 million riders daily on bus and rail networks is among many U.S. transit agencies that has adopted the “If You See Something, Say Something” campaign. “This campaign was borrowed from the MTA in 2002 and encourages riders to report any suspicious activity that they observe,” explained former CTA President Richard Rodriguez. “In addition, CTA has participated and continues to participate in training for a number of scenarios using a range of programs.”

According to the CTA Website, “if you observe an unattended package, witness anything unusual or see someone acting suspiciously, alert a CTA employee or call 9-1-1 immediately.”

Cell phone calls to 9-1-1 are a first thought; however, cell phones do not always work in the subway. CTA, like many transit agencies, has chosen to deploy emergency phones from Talk-a-Phone, which are easy to see and only require a push of a button to connect to the correct security personnel. Not only do they allow security personnel to instantly pinpoint the location of a caller, but they also provide the quickest way to contact security in case of an emergency. In addition to strategically placed emergency phones, all CTA trains are equipped with a two-way intercom system, accessible to riders during an emergency.

Emergency Phones, signage, lighting, emergency walkways have also been installed in the subway tunnels themselves, so that in the event passengers must leave the train between stations in an emergency, they can quickly and easily notify security. Since the emergency phones automatically notify security of their location, it is easier to tell passengers what to do, and to dispatch assistance to the right location. “We have blue lights affixed in places where telephones are located throughout the subway,” Myron Meredith explains in a public safety video produced by the CTA. “At those telephones passengers have the ability to push one button and they are able to talk directly to our control center. As they continue walking towards the emergency exit, there is a flashing blue light that will alert them to the location of that emergency exit, as well as the message that is playing that directs them to that emergency exit.”

Securing the transition points from one transportation medium to another is also a must. Emergency phones are strategically placed in such locations to allow the general public to report any suspicious activity. Personnel who are on duty at CTA’s control center alert both the Chicago Fire Department and the Chicago Police Department to emergencies on CTA’s system. Fire and police personnel train alongside CTA staff to familiarize themselves with the subway tunnels and elevated structure, so they can provide assistance to riders as quickly as possible when they respond to the scene.

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