September 11, 2001 : Attack on America
Hearing on "Transit Safety in the Wake of September 11th" Prepared Statement of The Honorable Jennifer L. Dorn Administrator Federal Transit Administration; October 4, 2001

Hearing on "Transit Safety in the Wake of September 11th"

Prepared Statement of The Honorable Jennifer L. Dorn
Federal Transit Administration
2:30 p.m., Thursday, October 4, 2001 - Dirksen 538

Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee. Good afternoon. Thank you for the opportunity to testify on behalf of the Federal Transit Administration regarding the security of our nation’s transit systems.

Every year, America’s public transportation systems carry more than 9 billion passengers and employ nearly 400,000 people. It is estimated that our public transportation infrastructure – subways, light rail, buses, ferries, and commuter railroad services – is valued at hundreds of billions of dollars. Ensuring the security of the Americans who depend upon this infrastructure, as well as the security of these important assets, has always been an important duty of every transit agency, but the events of September 11th have proven to all of us that this responsibility must receive even more attention and more resources in order to keep our communities safe and moving.

I want to express my personal gratitude to our transit colleagues in New York and Washington D.C., who had emergency response plans in place and the courageous leadership to take action when the unimaginable happened. We have all been riveted by stories in the press about the heroes of September 11th. I have one more I’d like to share.

At 8:52 a.m. on September 11th, minutes after the first hijacked jet plowed into One World Trade Center, a Port Authority Trans-Hudson (PATH) train master gave life-saving instructions to conductors and operators.

A train from Newark, carrying about 1,000 passengers, had just pulled into the station below the World Trade Center. The train master told the crew to keep everyone on the train, board everyone in the station, and immediately depart for the Exchange Place stop in Jersey City. Public transportation employees immediately evacuated passengers who mistakenly left the train.

A train from Hoboken carrying another 1,000 people was just behind the Newark train. The train master told that crew to keep the doors closed at the Trade Center and head immediately to Jersey City.

The train master then told another train in Jersey City to discharge all passengers and head back to the World Trade Center to evacuate remaining travelers and transit personnel. That train departed with its precious cargo at 9:10 a.m., 40 minutes before the first building collapsed.

That train master, Richie Moran, and PATH’s emergency response plan, saved thousands of lives. As we watched the death toll climb in New York, it is astounding to realize that no one riding the PATH or New York City subway lines that morning was injured.

At the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, similarly quick action occurred. Within minutes of the Pentagon crash, all Metrorail trains were ordered into tunnels, where they would be safe from any further air attacks. Twelve minutes later, with the skies clear, Metro was up and running – safely – once again.

The State Department reports that in 1991, 20 percent of all violent attacks world-wide were against transportation targets; by 1998, 40 percent involved transportation targets, with a growing number directed at bus and rail systems. The recent attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon using hijacked airliners reminds us all that we must respond to a new terrorist reality – terrorism that is well-financed, well-organized, and ruthless. The credible threat of increasing terrorism directed toward our nation’s transit systems requires that we take immediate prudent action to prevent, prepare for and respond to violence -- the nature and magnitude of which was once unimaginable.

Today, I would like to share with you the immediate steps that FTA is taking to help keep our communities safe and moving, and to discuss some of the issues that we believe should be considered as the President and Congress examine the broader implications of the new terrorist environment.

I want to talk with you today about the work we have underway to help our community public transportation agencies cope with this threat. There are five components to our security initiative: assessment, planning, technology, testing, and training.

First, assessment. Enhancing transit security must begin with an in-depth, professional assessment of the threats to and vulnerabilities of each transit system. This is not a "one size fits all" undertaking; every transit system has different components – tunnels, bridges, open rights-of-way – and different intersections with other means of transportation – connecting with airports, train stations, highways. Some of our transit systems are 100 years old and coping with design features that could never have anticipated even the criminal, let alone the terrorist, threats of today. Other systems are brand-new, built using security-minded design concepts and state-of-the-art technology.

In order to ensure an integrated, inter-modal response to security concerns, Secretary Mineta has created the National Infrastructure Security Committee (NISC). The NISC’s mission is to executive pre-emptive, preventive, protective, and recovery efforts for critical elements of the U.S. national transportation system. FTA is working with NISC, the states, and transit agencies to identify high value/high consequence transit operations, as well as their current protection strategies. An initial list has already been developed. We will be working with NISC and other federal entities involved in such efforts to coordinate strategy and minimize duplication of effort. FTA will also be working with NISC to develop national standards for a prudent level of protection for categories of critical assets. We will then work with our counterparts within DOT and in other agencies to identify and close the gaps in security.

The second component of FTA’s security initiative is planning. Effective response to an act of terrorism requires instantaneous and sound decision-making in a volatile, high-pressure environment. Although our largest transit operations already have emergency response plans, small and medium-sized transit agencies are not always well-prepared, and even our largest agencies need to reexamine their plans in light of today’s potential threats. FTA plans to provide hands-on assistance to transit agencies as they develop and refine their emergency response plans in light of their security assessment findings and heightened terrorist threats. These plans serve as blueprints for action in the wake of an attack. They articulate the steps to take in order to notify authorities of the incident, evacuate passengers, protect personnel and equipment, activate a unified command and communications system among transit, police, fire and emergency medical units, and restore the system to normal. In the wake of a terrorist attack or even a natural disaster, we cannot afford to lose precious moments simply trying to figure out what to do; plans must be in place.

The third component of our security initiative involves technology and capital equipment investments. FTA is evaluating the need for purchasing equipment and technology to enhance security and emergency preparedness. These acquisitions may range from personal protective equipment for train operators and station managers, to surveillance equipment for stations and facilities, to readying the latest chemical and explosive detection systems for deployment in transit systems.

The fourth component involves testing. When I visited with the New York transit officials in the aftermath of the World Trade Center attack, I asked them what advice they might share with other transit agencies based on their own experience. Their advice? In addition to having an emergency response plan in place, they recommend that every transit agency conduct regular emergency drills -- not just fire drills -- to keep skills sharp, update response plans, and build personal relationships with counterparts in the police, fire and emergency medical response organizations. Although regular tests and drills are routinely recommended by security experts in FTA and elsewhere, there is nothing like hearing advice from people who have lived it. As a result, FTA plans to work with local transit agencies to conduct full-scale emergency drills to test their plans and equipment.

Finally, we will be offering additional security training and workshops. We intend to expand our free security and emergency response training to incorporate new security strategies and tactics, and to give more local transit employees the opportunity to attend emergency response training. It is imperative that we have a transit workforce that understands security issues and is fully prepared to respond should an emergency occur.

In an effort to assist transit operators around the country as they reevaluate potential security threats, their emergency response plans, employee training needs, and ways to both reassure and work with the public to reduce security risks, FTA will soon be mailing a Security Toolkit to 600 transit agencies throughout the country. The toolkit will include resource guides, planning tools, training opportunities, and sample public awareness publications.

As you know, FTA is fundamentally a grant-making agency. We manage $8 billion in grants for programs ranging from the purchase of buses to the construction of new subway systems. We also provide training and technical assistance to local transit agencies. We are neither an operational agency, nor a traditional regulatory agency.

One of the greatest challenges that we all face is ensuring that the safety and security of our transit systems remains a high priority in years to come. The sustainability of whatever requirements, programs and funding we put in place today must be considered as we move forward – particularly in light of the other costs that loom on the horizon. Although a number of brand new systems are being built throughout the nation, we also have many aging systems that need rehabilitation and redesign. And figuring out a way to accomplish all that needs to be done will be a challenge for every level of government.

Let me close by, again, thanking the committee for initiating this dialogue. I am eager to work with you to keep our communities safe and moving.

Thank you.

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