October 26, 2014

We need training to spot trouble

By International President Mike Futhey

Train and engine employees are the eyes and ears of every railroad, and most often the first to recognize threats and provide a response.

The post 9/11 environment dangers now include foreign terrorist threats as well as home-grown threats by disturbed individuals.

The UTU is currently engaged with Amtrak in seeking federal funds to finance training of conductors, assistant conductors, on-board service personnel and yard employees to enhance their abilities to recognize behavioral traits of individuals intending to engage in terrorist activity. This project will include coordination with the Transportation Security Administration.

Under the leadership of my administrative assistant, Bruce Feltmeyer (Local 1402), we have proposed a federally funded joint effort with Amtrak to develop situational awareness training of Amtrak employees best positioned to recognize impending attacks, whether it be aboard trains, in stations, in yards or along the right-of-way.

The core of the project is to produce a security awareness manual for front-line Amtrak employees, presenting various terrorist scenarios and means of recognizing behavioral traits of those intending to cause harm to physical facilities, passengers and Amtrak employees. This manual will be accompanied by a scenario-based video.

Bruce is uniquely qualified. During his years of rail service, he has developed training programs for the on-line UTU University; and, as a Union Pacific employee, he helped to develop customer-service related training materials for conductors and newly hired managers. He also taught business software as an adjunct professor at a St. Louis community college.

As the UTU and Amtrak are painfully aware, millions of dollars are being spent to recognize and prevent terrorist threats at airports and aboard aircraft, but far fewer funds are allocated to protect the nation’s rail, transit and bus infrastructure. At train, transit and bus stations, passengers routinely board trains and buses with backpacks and luggage that is not screened.

If our joint funding grant is approved, the UTU and Amtrak jointly will build upon those efforts to enhance the ability of front-line Amtrak employees to recognize threats and learn how best to report concerns to dispatchers and law enforcement.

A successful joint project with Amtrak could lead to additional labor-management coordination in employee security training with freight railroads, transit operators and bus companies.

Terrorist threats are real and have been carried out against rail, transit and bus operations in other nations. Enhanced security that directly involves front-line employees protects our livelihoods. The UTU is capable, willing and anxious to play a key role training front-line employees to help protect our ground-based transportation networks.

On a related note, those attending UTU regional meetings in Phoenix and Asheville this summer will have opportunity to attend four-hour workshops hosted by the National Transit Institute of Rutgers University. Presentations will be made on existing surveillance monitoring techniques and methods of identifying would-be terrorists intent on using explosives, biological chemicals and/or firearms in an attack.