ST. LOUIS — Ramming large crowds of people with motor vehicles is the latest trend in global terrorism — which brought the U.S. Transportation Security Administration to Motorcoach Expo 2017.
“We have a trend or pattern in threats using vehicles to run over people and kill them. Both Al Qaeda and ISIL (terrorist groups) have magazines that they publish online,” said David Cooper, highway industry engagement manager in the TSA Office of Security Policy and Industry Engagement.
“They have been talking lately about promoting using vehicles to attack people.” Cooper is TSA’s representative to the motorcoach industry for information and training in counter terrorism.
“I am finalizing a guidance on vehicle ramming and what you can do to prevent it,” he said in a presentation to the annual Expo State Association Summit.
The goal of terrorists, he said, “is to get publicity from killing people. Two of the things you have are vehicles and going to large gatherings.”
Risk is small
While the chances of a motorcoach being used in a terrorist attack may be small, he said, “If it happens to one motorcoach company it is going to impact the entire industry. If one motorcoach company decides not to do anything for security and it happens to them, it will happen to everybody.
“We can’t say where it is going to be — it is not just the New York Cities that get attacked, it is all over the country. It is better to be prepared and prevent it than not be prepared and have to react.”
TSA offers a variety of training materials and security assessments to the motorcoach industry.
“We have resources around the country that you may not be aware of. Motorcoach is probably the most proactive group I have.
“We do a lot of security exercises around the country every year. Our field intelligence officers can come in and give you an unclassified intelligence briefing. You can have TSA come in to sit down and do an assessment of your company’s security. We will report back with recommendations you can use. We also have an assessment tool you can use yourself,” Cooper said.
TSA offers training and information on handling bomb threats, improvised explosive devices and “active shooter” incidents, he said. Some materials are printed as pocket guides that can be given to employees.
“In this country we are talking potentially about inside threat issues, employees who might start looking to workplace violence and employees who could potentially radicalize. There are indicators you can for to determine if either of those might be occurring in your company.”
Cooper also warned operators to take preventive measures against cyber-security threats.
“If you are not doing something on cyber security you are very vulnerable to being attacked or hacked. It is going on on a daily basis. Hackers are trying to get into companies in every sector — energy, transportation, banking, healthcare. Obviously they are always trying to get into it for money,” he said.
Preventive measures can be as simple as changing passwords on a regular basis and isolating access to segments of your computer network, he said.
“We have a couple of sources within the federal government you can report to if you think you are being attacked or hacked,” Cooper said. “We have a call center for cyber-security issues within the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. There are different ways they can help you depending on the size of the attack.”
Terrorist threats continually evolve, he said.
“Number one is the unknown. There is the lone wolf, the homegrown violent extremist who wants to carry out some kind of attack. We don’t know what the next type of attack might be. It could be something different than we have seen before,” he said.
“We are always trying to keep up or stay ahead of it. It is about being prepared and implementing all the security programs you can to protect yourself. It is all about having folks at the top make security a part of your company’s culture.”
TSA’s guidance and training materials are available by contacting email@example.com. The training program for its First Observer Plus program is available at www.tsa.gov/firstobserver.