WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Sept. 11, First Observer master trainers Jeff Beatty and David Mitchell presented a live Web seminar titled, “Never Forget, Never Again,” which focused on preventing acts of terrorism by training a network of “first observers” to watch for suspicious activity.
The national First Observer Outreach and Training Program recruits and trains volunteers who work in surface transportation to act as first observers in recognizing and reporting suspicious activities. The program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and administered by the Transportation Security Administration.
Fifty live training sessions were also held simultaneously that day, which President Obama had designated as a National Day of Service. Attendees to the sessions and Web seminar received certificates designating them as “first observers.”
Beatty and Mitchell urged the more than 150 online viewers to observe, assess and report suspicious activity to the national Information Sharing and Analysis Center (ISAC), which can be reached at 1-888-217-5902 and is staffed 24/7, 365 days a year by both English and Spanish language operators.
“Your call goes to ISAC and creates usable intelligence, which then goes to first responders,” Mitchell explained.
Viewers learned about the five observation phases when it’s important to watch for suspicious activity, which include pre-trip, during loading and departure at the origin point, en route, during unloading at the destination point, and post trip.
Beatty and Mitchell said observers should watch for DLR, or “doesn’t look right”-type activities, such as casing a target or rehearsal of an act of terror, photographing of key infrastructure, persons or vehicles in unauthorized places, and vehicles following or shadowing you.
When calling in any suspicious activity, Beatty and Mitchell said observers should use the ITALK system:
- Identify yourself and give a call back number
- Time: make careful note of the time of the incident or observation
- Activity: describe people, vehicles, action that you observe
- Location: make note of mile marker, cross street, or GPS coordinates, if possible
- Keep up observation if possible while maintaining safety
The presenters also emphasized that the First Observer program will require that several sectors participate and work together, including truck rental, trucking, school bus, transit bus, law enforcement, highway workers, infrastructure professionals and hazmat carriers.
The First Observer Training Website at www.firstobserver.com/training features both trucking and school bus training modules. Users who register on the site can watch the videos cataloged there and follow news and events related to terrorism prevention.