Practical Security and Emergency Response Advice
from New York and Washington D.C.
Before Disaster Strikes
- Work with your colleagues and counterparts in the police department, fire department, health department, public buildings department, and emergency management office to develop a plan that will be successful
- Review your plan regularly and update it when your system changes or new threats emerge
- Plan for the worst. Determine what you will do if…
- Normal communication systems (television, web, radio, telecommunications) are not available
- Electrical power is cut off
- There are massive deaths or injuries
- There are air-borne chemical or biological hazards
- Practice, Practice, Practice
- Conduct regular emergency/disaster drills (not just fire drills!) to keep skills sharp and your plan up-to-date
- Build interagency relationships; every level of transit leadership should personally knows his/her counterparts in the agencies and organizations who will be responding to an emergency situation
- Some Things that Really Matter
- Put the resources in place to execute your plan – people, equipment, facilities
- Identify alternative means of transportation for the transit-using public in case one or more of your primary modes is disabled
- Radio communication capability is essential because cell phones are not reliable during the emergencies; be sure you have multiple communication systems, in case one or more is inoperative
- Conduct criminal and credit background checks on every employee
- Make sure every employee has a photo identification and require that it be displayed at all times
- Establish Command Central
- Immediately set up a joint operations center so that your key responders can talk to each other face-to-face and make joint decisions
Although it was not clear at the outset whether there was a terrible accident or a terrorist incident, the command center leadership made the decision to respond to the situation as a terrorist attack. As a result, the NYC transit authority immediately evacuated all trains, passengers and transit employees from the World Trade Center area – and there were no transit-related deaths or serious injuries and no equipment losses as a result of the collapsed building.
- Be ready and willing to improvise; even a good plan can’t anticipate everything
NYC Transit made the decision to let everyone leave the city for free; this decision made the evacuation process quicker and built tremendous goodwill with the public.
In the Aftermath
- Communicate with the Public
- Use your website to communicate your service plans and availability with the public on a real-time basis.
NYC Transit has been getting 10 million hits a day, compared to a usual 200,000 hits, and updates its site every 2 hours even if no substantive changes to service have been made.
- Work with local television and radio stations to get information about closings and alternative routes to the public
- Restore Public Confidence
- Increase law enforcement visibility; put a uniformed officer on every train, if possible, to reassure the public and deter potential threats
- Tell people – with brochures, ads, and announcements – how they can help enhance security