According to CBC and other sources, VIA Rail is considering to beef up its security procedures in light of the alleged terrorist plot to derail a train on New York to Toronto route. Among the possible security measures under consideration are greater scrutiny of checked luggage, use of sniffer dogs, mandatory ID checks and luggage reconciliation. Among other measures already in place, VIA Rail spokesperson mentioned that VIA employees have been trained in observing suspicious body language. Some pundits were quick to describe these measures as 'aviation security style' screening which will render traveling by train in Canada a lot less pleasant. We believe this won't be the case.
In our opinion, the addition of more serious security measures to Canadian rail cargo and passenger transportation has been long overdue. Rail infrastructure and communications constitute an integral part of the national critical infrastructure. A recent event at Lac-Megantic, QC has provided vivid images of what could occur in an urban area if an attack involving a heavy load of explosives is executed. In the current evolving threat environment the addition of sensible and scalable risk-based security measures makes a lot of sense.
The challenge ahead is to decide which measures should be implemented to increase safety & security of passengers on board and in terminals, as well as physical security of rail lines and relevant installations. As possible threat scenarios are numerous and budgets are limited, the revised security system must contain the following general attributes:
In this regard, we would like to briefly focus on the 'body language' training reportedly provided to VIA Rail employees. As the only proven method allowing especially selected and trained security personnel to focus their attention on higher risk passengers, Behaviour Risk Assessment can be a very valuable tool. In addition to identifying individuals with malicious intent (e.g. Richard Reid the 'Shoe bomber' or Ahmed Ressam, the 'Millennium Bomber'), behaviour observation officers contribute a lot to deterrence and also customer service. In order to succeed, however, possible candidates must be selected and trained (extensive in class and OJT) to the highest standards of professionalism and be part of a robust program with elements of continuous improvement, performance measurement and quality assurance oversight.
In the absence of such an approach the lack of professionalism may lead to potential abuses, profiling or worst. Unfortunately, some of the problems experienced by TSA's Behaviour Detection Program in the last 7 years stem from insufficiently trained and supervised personnel.
So, while we welcome VIA Rail's attention to the 'body language' training we also hope their approach goes beyond a 1-2 days awareness course and includes the development of the necessary procedures to support this operation.
CHI Security team includes professionals with diverse backgrounds and experiences. In this blog we share our musings on how to build a resilient security force. Hardware comes later...