CLIFTON PARK, N.Y. — A school district here recently partnered with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) for training related to security and incident command.
Alfred Karam, the director of transportation for Shenendehowa Central Schools, told School Bus Fleet that the district had the idea for the training after the department underwent safety and security audits conducted by the TSA in 2015 and 2018.
The TSA, through its Highway Baseline Assessment for Security Enhancement (BASE) review, performs audits of transportation entities, evaluates security programs, offers technical assistance, and shares best practices for security, according to the agency’s website.
The audits performed for Shenendehowa Central Schools focused on four key assessment areas: management and accountability, personnel security, facilities security, and vehicle security.
“They looked at our policies and procedures, gave us a score based on the assessment, and also provided us with some review recommendations,” Karam added.
On March 7, the district followed up the audits with a two-hour training workshop, in which the TSA presented the transportation department’s office staff with two security scenarios. The first scenario included reports of suspicious individuals surveilling the district’s bus garage, while the second dealt with reports of one of the district’s buses being hijacked. The tabletop demonstration, which is called the TSA’s Exercise Information System (EXIS), guided staff members through a series of questions testing their response to the two events.
“Staff members became a part of the incident command team through this process, and they were put through the training to understand each other’s roles,” Karam said. “[The training] was an absolute success across the board because my team learned more about themselves and each other than they had ever learned before.”
While the next step of the TSA’s training program requires risk mitigation assessment, Karam said Shenendehowa Central Schools will surpass that step of the program and move forward with the TSA’s Security Enhancement Through Assessment (SETA).
The transportation department will use SETA, a three-step process, to test school bus driver compliance with the department’s policies and procedures.
During the first step, TSA representatives will come to the district and perform an unannounced observation of drivers conducting pre- and post- trips and other standard protocols. In the second step, TSA representatives will share the assessment results with the transportation department as a whole. To complete the process, TSA representatives will conduct another impromptu observation to reassess the drivers’ progress in adhering to the district’s security standards.
“We’ve already changed our daily vehicle inspection reports, and added recommended interview questions for hiring new employees based on [the TSA’s] recommendations,” Karam said.
As for whether or not the district will complete another audit, he said “possibly in a year or two.”
Shenendehowa Central Schools holds a total of six safety training refreshers a year, including active shooter training.
“We’re always changing gears and doing something different,” Karam added. “It’s a valuable lesson to keep at the forefront to help employees maintain their focus on the safety of our students.”