Canadian Security Magazine

All aboard: how the railways plan to derail terrorism

By Nancy Argyle   

Features Securing the Nation

Quietly, and without a lot of public fanfare, Canadian Pacific has spent the last eight years working closely with other railways and government agencies across North America to protect one of the continent’s most critical supply chains — the company’s 16,000 miles of railway.  

It’s a daunting task to protect a critical infrastructure network that stretches thousands of miles across Canada and the United States but it’s one that the company has faced in its 128 years of business.
In the early days, it was mainly severe weather and mountainous terrain that caused the most challenges.  But, after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Canadian Pacific had a new and much more deadly risk to consider — one that could strike without warning, anywhere along its 16,000-mile route. 

Across the continent, it was also a new risk that others were facing and, in a surprisingly swift and united response, North America’s Class 1 railways joined together to address the possibility of terrorism, head-on.
“Right after 9/11, all of the big railroads came together to develop a unique security plan,” says Gerry Fish, superintendent of corporate security for the Canadian Pacific Police Service.  “We knew we needed to work together because non-aligned plans would help protect individual railways but not the larger inter-dependant North American network.”

Much like the often-torpedoed shipping lanes of World War II, a disrupted rail system could impact essential supply chains. Considering that the rail network is responsible for carrying everything from medical supplies to food, any extended loss of service could strike at the core of the North American lifestyle as well as potentially sever supply lines for business and manufacturing.

With so much at stake, the planning behind the effort to protect the railway network took on a scope and co-operative approach that has never been seen before — even ahead of Homeland Security planning and certainly well ahead of other agencies’ efforts, notes Fish. 

The outcome from those initial meetings was the decision to form a security task force and through its efforts, create a comprehensive risk-based industry security plan. 

Five critical action teams worked on countermeasures designed to minimize impacts on the nation’s security, economy and the rail industry — specifically in the areas of operational security, physical infrastructure, IT and communications, hazardous materials and military liaison. 

“Each level has its associated countermeasures and since 9/11, we’ve remained at alert 2,” explains Fish.
“And within each of these concerns, the countermeasures planning took place on three fronts — people, process and technology,” Fish says.  “The resulting plan was both comprehensive and far-reaching.”

Today, like other Class 1 railways, Canadian Pacific uses a variety of tactics to address potential risks including:

”¢    A dedicated railway police service, with a strength of 90 sworn officers, that patrol property, enhance public safety through trespass and traffic enforcement activities, investigate crimes and charge offenders.
”¢    Information and intelligence sharing protocols between railways, law enforcement and government agencies.
”¢    Redundant communications including satellite services in operations centres and reserved emergency bandwidth.
”¢    Redundant business and dispatch operations centres.
”¢    An IT emergency response team.
”¢    A network of emergency response contractors.
”¢    Mandatory security awareness training and background
screening for employees.
”¢    Use of technology including forward-facing cameras on locomotives.
”¢    Inspections by staff to secure trains and check for suspicious items.
”¢    A public awareness program that included the installation of a police service 1-800 number on railway crossings that allows citizens to report any type of safety concern, security incident or suspicious activity.

“With thousands of public crossings, fencing the right-of-way is just not a practical security option,” says Fish.  “Today, we have to use many tools to protect such a large network and employees are an important part of the security team.

“Together, we have more than 16,000 pairs of eyes and ears out there that can report any type of trouble. Canadian Pacific employees know their work environment best so they know what is normal and what is out of place,” adds Fish.

For the past few years, Canadian Pacific has also actively encouraged public involvement by setting up a toll-free hotline and by assigning individual crossing identification numbers (in large yellow sticker format) so that citizens can easily identify where they are and call to report their concerns.

Initially, the hotline received only a few hundred calls but in 2008, it received a staggering 12,000 calls from the public reporting a variety of concerns — thanks to the ease of this method.

As a speaker at the upcoming Tri-Lateral Security Conference in Calgary, June 18-19, 2009, Fish will be offering further insight into railway security in his presentation Protecting Railway Critical Infrastructure — A Distributed Network. 

This year’s conference theme, Securing a Sustainable Society: Critical Infrastructure and Public Safety, will focus on the safety and security of critical supply chain infrastructure. 

Former Alberta premier Ralph Klein, as keynote speaker, will lead a diverse range of distinguished conference speakers.  Named as Calgary’s outstanding citizen of the century, Ralph Klein’s presentation promises to be exciting and memorable.

The two-day conference will bring together nearly a dozen high-powered speakers including:

Dr. Phyllis Schneck, vice-president and director of threat intelligence (the Americas) for McAfee Inc., named one of the Top 25 Women Leaders in Information Security.  Dr. Schneck specializes in infrastructure protection and was the moderator of the White House Town Hall meeting for the National Strategy to Secure Cyberspace.  Dr. Schneck is also responsible for creating the first overall strategic plan to involve the private sector in integrated infrastructure protection.

Wishart Robson, climate change advisor to the CEO and president of Nexen Inc., was appointed to the National Round Table on the Environment. Robson has spent the past 25 years working in the energy sector, holding senior environmental and safety positions in Canada and 50 international locations.  His depth of experience makes him a sought-after speaker.

Phil Banks operates The Banks Group where his security practice provides threat, risk and impact mitigation strategies, critical infrastructure protection assessment and strategic security planning services throughout North America. Banks served 25 years in federal law enforcement with the RCMP and is a dynamic speaker.

Also speaking will be:

Susheel Gupta, currently with the Department of Justice, Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes section.  At last year’s conference, Gupta’s thoughtful and personal account concerning the death of his mother in the Air India bombing drew an emotional response from many in the audience.

The Tri-Lateral Security Conference promises to be a don’t-miss event that offers networking opportunities, door prizes, a social evening and dynamic presentations by security professionals from across the continent.  
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