Exclusive Q&A: ADT's Barry Einsig on Securing Mass Transit Facilities

Einsig on why it's unfair to compare with airports, why we need to integrate systems, and how the culture of security is changing

The initial response to threats against transit facilities has been to shift a lot of heavily armed police and dog teams to mass transit stations. You've been exploring tools like intelligent video to help secure mass transit assets. What are some of the possibilities?

I think there are a number of potential applications for intelligent video. One example is a rail yard; these are often the most vulnerable places in the entire system. We're looking at using intelligent video for perimeter security where it can detect intruders in an area where otherwise it's hard to control access.

How has access control at transit facilities been changing? Can we lock-down these facilities?

In terms of facilities, the above-ground stations are the more prevalent stations, except perhaps in New York. Those kinds of facilities don't preclude it [a lock-down] but they do force you to think differently about it. If you look at airports, for example, most of the facility is closed to your customers, and only a select portion is open. In transit it's really the converse, where the only things you're locking down are the offices and booths.

In a whitepaper you published titled "Command, Control and Communication: Managing Electronic Security Systems for Increased Efficiency and Emergency Response," you started to deal with issues of alternative locations for transit agencies' command and control centers. What's happened in that arena since your whitepaper?

First some history: The traditional approach was to put the command center right there on the track bed. Now we've realized that the track bed and commuter areas are targets themselves, and those control centers become targets just by proximity.

Today, we're starting to see that most of the bigger transit agencies are recognizing this, and are creating control centers in remote locations so that there's redundancy in the system. In fact, most are using these new, remote centers as the primary control center, and are just leaving the original command center as the redundant center that only is staffed if they can't work out of the remote center. They're setting these old centers up so that they just have to come in, turn on the lights and power up the equipment and they're back in control.

What else is changing in terms of incident management other than the creation of redundant control centers?

I think we're starting to see communication between agencies and between agencies and responders. Incident command for non-terrorist actions is driving that communication.

Look at New Orleans -- there wasn't a coordinated plan. At one point, they wanted to use buses in New Orleans for the post-hurricane evacuation. But the buses were sitting empty or even flooded; they were abandoned because there was no plan to call their drivers in to operate these vehicles. And there wasn't the follow-up plan on how they were going to take care of their drivers' families when they were called away from them in the middle of this disaster.

So they're having to create the incident response plans, and you can't count on FEMA to do that. APTA [the American Public Transportation Association, see www.apta.com] has a new piece out on incident command and it covers how incident command will drive security improvements. The industry is realizing now that incident command resources can be used not just for terrorism, but for natural disaster and even festivals and special events-type scenarios.

The problem, of course, with trying to provide security and operational equipment just for terrorism is that while the damage potential is high, the likelihood is so low that it becomes hard to justify. But if you can show that you can use these resources for command control of a variety of incidents and situations, then you can justify these expenditures.

Learn more:
Hear more of Einsig's thoughts on Nov. 2, 2005, at 1 p.m. EST via a free webinar from Mass Transit Magazine dealing with intelligent video and security at mass transit facilities. Sign up here. Event will be archived at this same link within 72 hours following the live presentation.