Intermodal transportation is a transportation of passengers or freight in a vehicle or intermodal container, using different ways of transportation (truck, ship or rail), between two transportation modes. At the past, the term was commonly used as a definition of transportation using a container or containerized rail transport. This way of transportation is relatively safe since it allows freight to be moved faster, reduces loss, damage and cargo handling. The key benefit of intermodal transportation is the reduced costs. After the September 11 attacks, intermodal transit systems constantly face multiply threats from terrorism. To avert another tragedy, the United States should consider countless ways to prevent more attacks. Thus, actions taken to improve the security of the US intermodal transportation are not enough to protect it from potential terrorist attacks.
After the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, virtually every mass transit system over the United States had to reconsider security and safety procedures to demonstrate that they could come up with creative solutions, make quick decisions and respond to emergencies. It caused a rise of popularity for security devices like satellite telephones for employees, personal protection equipment, vehicular gates at the subway entrance, vehicles for explosive detection, and bomb-resistant containers. All these security devices are crucial, preventing transportation vehicles from being used as bombs as well as to protect passengers from terrorist attacks. After September 11, truck traffic was restricted. Tunnels and bridges into and out big cities have been heavily patrolled by the National Guard and police. To prevent anchors and cables of bridges from damaging, all maintenance doors were sealed shut.
All transit agencies develop and implement new internal procedures and policies. In addition, it was decided to strengthen their current protocols. All personnel has started participating in seminars on anthrax, bioterrorism, terrorism, and other safety and security issues like incidents using biological, nuclear, chemical devices, or explosives. Many cities sent employees for training seminars. As a result of these trainings, it was decided to create security groups. For example, the “Metro” training program in Washington DC is aimed to prepare emergency staff to handle terrorist attacks.
Intermodal transportation faces different types of terrorist threats. Since trucks and airplanes have recently became the common weapon for terrorists. Often, these trucks deliver their loads to unprotected, deserted, areas, where they are left unattended with their engines running at depots. That is why, for many terrorist organizations, trucks are the ideal weapon. Many of them carry hazardous materials providing terrorists with weapons that could be the impact of detonation or explode. Another example of dangerous materials freight on trucks is chlorine since it could be released deliberately. Recognizing the security issues in the trucking industry, the federal government had developed programs to provide the trucking safety. For example, “Highway Watch” is the training program that provides a national hotline for reporting potential terrorist activities. Besides, a satellite-tracking system was developed. It can disable a truck if it has been hijacked, stolen or controlled by an unauthorized driver. The complexity of intermodal transport logistics makes it very difficult to secure. That is why to improve intermodal transportation security, remote sensing is crucial since it provides the end-to-end monitoring and tracking.
Airplanes usually have a great number of passengers on board so that they can easily become the weapon of a mass destruction, as it happened on September 11. As for airports, the number of security checkpoints to screen luggage and passengers has been significantly increased. At the airport security checkpoint, security personnel may use any measures to identify, minimize, and resolve the potential threat. The programs like “Secure Flight” are aimed to identify a low or high-risk passenger before he/she arrives at the airplane by matching his/her name against trusted watch and traveler lists. It is an effective prescreening program that enhances the security on airplanes.
Freight railroads and passenger rail service are extremely vulnerable to terrorist attacks. During the last decade, there were a number of attacks worldwide on rail targets such as subway systems, light rail systems, rail bridges, ticket stations, depots and trains and related. All these attacks resulted in a great number of injuries and deaths. The area of greatest concern is the information systems network of the rail industry. Moreover, all physical infrastructures of the freight railroads in its daily operations depend largely on information technologies. Subways are difficult to protect since they are designed the way to be easily accessible. The subway system is a tempting target for terrorists since it is an enclosed area that is full of people during specific hours every day. That is why, terrorist attacks in a subway would have a devastating result. To ensure the safety of the railroad intermodal transportation system, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and the Association of American Railroads (AAR) started working together. Their aim is to provide inspection and tracking of certain shipments, inspect bridges, tunnels, tracks, ensure the security of property and information systems. To make rail tunnels safer, the communication system and emergency access were improved, and the ventilation system was modernized.
To prevent potential terrorist attacks, the inspection of certain shipments and increased tracking are used. To track intermodal transportation routes across the United States, embedded processors (e-seals, e-sensors, and radio frequency identification tags) are being used more often. They can track any changes that took place during the shipment. For example, e-sensors will immediately notify the security organization if terrorists were to use a container of hazardous materials. To track employees, other types of devices and wireless communication tracking system are being used. For example, a biometric device can identify a person based on his/her retina pattern, fingerprint, or any other physical attribute.
After September 11, passenger systems have conducted further preparation and testing for terrorist attacks. Biological and chemical detection systems have been applied for identifying suspicious luggage and packages. Passengers and personnel are informed to be ready for evacuation and report any suspicious behavior. To improve the security of intermodal transportation, many transportation agencies have strengthened their current emergency procedures like a terrorism response training exercises that involved federal, state and local emergency response personnel. The transit environment uses the emergency plan, providing the guidance to help evaluate and report the potential emergency, notify emergency response agencies or personnel, evacuate passengers, manage the incident and eliminate consequences. All staff members are constantly learning emergency response skills. They are essential to limit casualties in any emergency. Well-trained personnel, drivers, and operators are a key factor in prevention and response to a terrorist threat. Any situations can be resolved, when personnel can provide a proper response.
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To provide practical aid to transportation staff, numerous guidelines and new performance technologies were developed by the Federal Transit Authority. One of such technologies is the simulation technology. It allows evaluating a terrorist threat and then to perform the appropriate actions. Simulation technology offers training in a virtual, but realistic situation, a day-to-day incident when an immediate response is needed. To protect and save lives, it is crucial to know exactly what to do. A person observes, assesses, and takes an immediate action that should reduce the risk. Furthermore, the Department of Defense, the Army, and the Navy have developed several game applications for training and education.
After the September 11 attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center, many efforts were performed to assist in the recovery and response in the fight against world’s terrorism. All these devices and programs are not a panacea. However, they can help significantly to improve the rapid response and emergency security planning. Although several local communities have no ability to put these useful devices to work, in most of the cities, they are already working. However, it will take more than just funding to improve the security of intermodal transportation in the United States. The supportive policy at local, state and federal level is needed. Also, it is crucial to provide an extensive informing on the potential terrorist threat for all types of the intermodal transport.
To summarize, in the early 21th century, the U.S. community is faced with new security challenges that seemed unbelievable before. After the September 11, the world has changed. The security intermodal is of highest concern since the vulnerability of the transportation infrastructure elements makes them a potential target for terrorist attacks. The transport of hazardous materials and intermodal freight transport could be used as a weapon of mass destruction. Although an enormous work has been done to provide the security of intermodal transportation, it is still not enough to state that all transportation modes in the United States are 100% safe and protected from the terrorism threat. Only a credible, relevant, performance-oriented and systematic approach will ensure the needed result. All transport staff and passengers should be always prepared to take appropriate and immediate actions. The country’s security agencies should continue using the newest technologies that provide training and devices that help track and control the process of transportation. The United States should use all knowledge and experience gained to deal with a potential terrorist threat in the future.
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