Program aids vigilance

Do employees say something if they see something?

The results of an initial, unannounced multiple-phase self-assessment at the Belt yielded disappointing results, with the majority of employees not responding appropriately to the presence of an undercover TSA agent posing as a trespasser. 

But corrective actions already have yielded significant results, and Police Chief Gerald Conoboy said the railroad will continue to work on the issue and aim for perfect scores. He praised leadership for supporting the effort. 

While Belt police performed some self-assessment activities independently, the bulk of activity has been part of the Security Enhancement Through Assessment program.

Part of the TSA’s Risk-Based Security initiative, SETA supports a national strategy for performing transportation system risk mitigation. The program mostly has been used by commuter rail and mass transit operations. Conoboy believes that the Belt was one of the first organizations to use SETA in a freight yard setting. 

SETA consists of five elements completed in three phases: identify, assess, mitigate, reassess and sustain.

Phase I includes identifying vulnerabilities. During this phase, which occurred in February at the Belt, six TSA agents posed as trespassers. Each engaged an employee and asked questions, some related to what hazardous materials were in which cars. Fifteen employees were engaged and only three undercover agents were asked for identification and reported. 

Phase II focuses on mitigating vulnerabilities through training. In a series of informal meetings at various venues, Belt police, the safety committee and the TSA agents involved in Phase I spoke with employees in groups of six to 40, making them aware of the results of the self-assessment. Many employees were shocked by the results. The SETA team’s message was simple: “If you see something, say something.” He notes that employees need not engage trespassers. An appropriate response would be merely calling Belt police. 

“This is your home away from home,” he said. “If you see someone you aren’t sure belongs here, you have the right to confront them or just call the police; that’s what we’re here for.”

And Phase III, which the Belt completed in July, included a reassessment and plan to develop stronger security. Of the 15 employees engaged by an agent posing as a trespasser, 10 reported him.  

“We will sustain the program with the goal of attaining 100%,” Conoboy said. 

Employees are urged to say something if they see something.