Truckers Watching the Highways
Highway Watch is yet another civilian distributed counterterrorism program. Basically, truckers are trained to look out for suspicious activities on the highways. Despite its similarities to such ill-conceived still-born programs like TIPS, I think this one has some merit.
Why? Two things: training, and a broader focus than terrorism. This is from their overview:
Highway Watch® training provides Highway Watch® participants with the observational tools and the opportunity to exercise their expert understand of the transportation environment to report safety and security concerns rapidly and accurately to the authorities. In addition to matters of homeland security – stranded vehicles or accidents, unsafe road conditions, and other safety related situations are reported eliciting the appropriate emergence responders. Highway Watch® reports are combined with other information sources and shared both with federal agencies and the roadway transportation sector by the Highway ISAC.
Sure, the “matters of homeland security” is the sexy application that gets the press and the funding, but “stranded vehicles or accidents, unsafe road conditions, and other safety related situations” are likely to be the bread and butter of this kind of program. And interstate truckers are likely to be in a good position to report these things, assuming there’s a good mechanism for it.
About the training:
Highway Watch® participants attend a comprehensive training session before they become certified Highway Watch® members. This training incorporates both safety and security issues. Participants are instructed on what to look for when witnessing traffic accidents and other safety-related situations and how to make a proper emergency report. Highway Watch® curriculum also provides anti-terrorism information, such as: a brief account of modern terrorist attacks from around the world, an outline explaining how terrorist acts are usually carried out, and tips on preventing terrorism. From this solid baseline curriculum, different segments of the highway sector have or are developing unique modules attuned to their specific security related situation.
Okay, okay, it does sound a bit hokey. “…tips on preventing terrorism” indeed. (Tip #7: When transporting nuclear wastes, always be sure to padlock your truck. Tip #12: If someone asks you to deliver a trailer to the parking lot underneath a large office building and run away very fast, always check with your supervisor first.) But again, I like the inclusion of the mundane “what to look for when witnessing traffic accidents and other safety-related situations and how to make a proper emergency report.”
This program has a lot of features I like in security systems: it’s dynamic, it’s distributed, it relies on trained people paying attention, and it’s not focused on a specific threat.
Usually we see terrorism as the justification for something that is ineffective and wasteful. Done right, this could be an example of terrorism being used as the justification for something that is smart and effective.