The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) recently announced that its First Observer security training has been re-launched as a web-based program.

First Observer is a security awareness training initiative that focuses on enhancing security across highway surface transportation modes, including school buses.

The government program, which includes the School Bus First Observer module, had been dormant since December 2012, when its grant money ran out and wasn’t renewed by Congress. Until then, First Observer (successor to Highway Watch) had been administered by grantee HMS Co. since 2008. After the grant expired, TSA decided to bring the program in-house.

Ken Ward, a TSA transportation security specialist, said in a recent letter to industry stakeholders that the agency has “re-tooled all of the critical training modules and have made them available online.”

Drivers and others who go through the First Observer program, which is available at, can print a certificate of completion after viewing the lessons that are applicable to their job.

Ward noted that “unfortunately these web-based modules do not currently support in-person classroom training or ‘train-the-trainer’ development, but we are hopeful this training can be restored in the future.”

Ward said that the revamped First Observer will continue to focus on the core “Observe, Assess, Report” message of the original program, but it will also grow into new areas.

Planned changes include expansion into additional surface transportation modes (mass transit/passenger rail, freight rail, pipeline); production of new videos for all surface transportation modes; inclusion of training guidance that aligns with Public Law 110-53; information/record management capabilities; and a comprehensive train-the-trainer in-person instructional component. The first phase of implementing these enhancements could come about by the end of 2015, Ward added.

“TSA believes the First Observer program holds great value to our constituents,” Ward said, “and with expansion of its intended audience and a re-energized engagement effort, we feel it can effectively reduce the risk of a terrorist attack against surface transportation assets.”

About the author
Thomas McMahon

Thomas McMahon

Executive Editor

Thomas had covered the pupil transportation industry with School Bus Fleet since 2002. When he's not writing articles about yellow buses, he enjoys running long distances and making a joyful noise with his guitar.

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