Research Terrorism database yields valuable insights
Karen Philbrick, PhD, Executive Director
Aftermath of terrorist bus bombing.
The very qualities that make public transit efficient—the ability to move large numbers of people through populous areas at minimal cost—also make it a highly attractive target for terrorists. From September 11, 2001 to December 31, 2013, terrorists carried out approximately 2,515 attacks against public surface transportation worldwide, resulting in 5,220 deaths and 17,106 injuries.
Since 1996, the MTI National Transportation Safety and Security Center (NTSSC) has maintained a secure, proprietary database known officially as the MTI Database on Terrorist and Serious Criminal Attacks against Public Surface Transportation. The database—which is not accessible by the public for security reasons—currently contains data on 4,139 attacks against surface transportation worldwide.
The NTSSC performs quantitative analyses of the data, enabling the NTSSC to detect subtle patterns and trends in terrorist tactics, weaponry, motives, and targeting processes. The NTSSC additionally examines detailed case studies of actual incidents. The insights that emerge help identify best practices and strategies to prevent or halt future attacks.
NTSSC performs research in five key areas:
Security policy and procedures
Disaster planning and emergency management
Safety policy and procedures
Security, safety, and emergency-response training development
In January, MTI began publishing policy briefings that contain insights based on the data; five have been published to date. Written by security experts, these Transportation Security Perspectives are available to the public at no charge on the MTI website.
Public transportation a high-value target
The following are some of the insights acquired through the database and discussed in the Transportation Security Perspectives:
When body count is the objective, public surface transportation provides an attractive target, offering crowds of people in a confined environment.
While suicide bombers can be lethal, more explosives can be packed into a vehicle left at the target site. These can be triggered remotely or even long after the attacker has left the area.
Russia is among the primary killing fields in attacks against public surface transportation. This contradicts the general belief that only developing nations are targeted.
Worldwide, 5.1 percent of these attacks occur in Russia, just behind Israel with 5.3 percent. Only India, Pakistan, and Columbia have more.
Buses, trains, and subways that provide multiple access points (vs. airlines, for example) are more difficult to secure, thus they are targeted more often.
Subways offer easy access and crowds of potential victims.
Bombings during rush hours were a preferred course of action, and plotters can obtain information from readily available public sources and conduct their own reconnaissance.
Dr. Frances Edwards, co-author of the transportation emergency preparedness handbook.
The first section is a research report that explains the evolution of the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) guidance and policies for the development of disaster preparedness. It includes the first complete analysis of the changes to homeland security implementation arising from Presidential Policy Directive-8 (PPD-8), and the issuance of the new frameworks for all phases of emergency management.
Practice exercises, real-world scenarios, expert advice, resources, and information kits
The second section is a comprehensive exercise handbook for the transportation sector. It is the first publication to provide transportation-specific exercise checklists, potential exercise objectives, and scenarios for each type of exercise, based on emergencies that have actually occurred. Also included are a complete set of home and personal preparedness materials for transportation workers and their households. The bibliography includes URLs for HSEEP, DHS and FEMA resources.
The handbook has received a great deal of media attention and positive feedback. MTI was notified that a portion of the handbook was used for training 7,000 participants from across federal, state, and local governments this past March. The report can be downloaded at no charge from the MTI website. A Microsoft Word version of the exercise handbook can be downloaded separately and customized as needed.
Information & Technology Transfer Demand for MTI research stronger than ever
Donna Maurillo, MSTM, Director of Communications & ITT
MTI researchers and staff strive to produce high-quality research, but we do not count our efforts a success until we know the research is being read by those who can use it to serve the public good. To that end, we promote each publication through publicity campaigns that include nationally distributed news releases and social media campaigns, and we notify the news media of interview opportunities with MTI experts in areas of topical interest.
By analyzing activity and downloads on the MTI and MNTRC websites, we can see how well we've done. We're pleased to report that traffic on the MTI and MNTRC websites has risen significantly over the past year. For calendar year 2013, average monthly uses rose to 382,125—an increase of 29 percent over the previous year—and average monthly downloads increased by 9 percent to 106,829.
Some of our most recently released research includes:
Communications Women in Transportation meet in Denver
Louisiana Secretary of Transportation Sherri LeBas discussed her career in civil engineering.
In early April, the Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI) and the University of Denver’s National Center for Intermodal Transportation (NCIT) were among the co-sponsors of Women in Transportation: Recruitment, Retention & Advancementt. The summit, which took place in Denver, attracted a stellar roster of speakers, including Sherri LeBas, Louisiana Secretary of State, who delivered the opening keynote.
Secretary LeBas revealed that her civil engineering professor in college told her to leave the field, but she and ten others in her class stuck with it. Eventually she was inducted into the Louisiana State University Hall of Fame. She encouraged the audience of both men and women to commit themselves to public service and to ask what they can do to improve lives.
MTI’s new Executive Director, Dr. Karen Philbrick, said the first time she went to make a professional presentation, she was asked to get the coffee. “It was a real eye-opener,” she remarked. “Now at MTI, we’re very active in workforce development, starting in grade school and moving into high school and college.”
Attendees came from across the country to participate in the summit.
Marcia Ferranto, CEO of the Women’s Transportation Seminar, delivered the closing keynote. She cited a surprising statistic—that companies with women in top positions tend to perform much better—but she also noted that only 4.6 percent of companies have them, and only six women lead state DOTs. She pointed to a looming worldwide shortage of transportation workforce. “We must let women know that transportation is a viable career choice and includes many professions beyond engineering and operations—anything necessary to run a business, such as accounting, marketing, and human resources.”
Other speakers included Adriene Bailey, VP of Strategic Business Development at Yusen Logistics; Michelle Livingstone, VP Transportation, Home Depot; Anita Doney, Sr. Manager, International Logistics, Walmart; Marie Lacertosa, SVP, Supply Chain Management, JCPenney; Natalie Purnam, VP, Integrated Marketing, Ryder Systems; Kathy Waters, VP Member Services, APTA; Pauletta Tonilas, Director, Public Information, RTD-Denver; Polina Raygorodskaya, CEO, Wanderu; Ann Drake, CEO, DSC Logistics; Kelly Kinnebrew, PhD, Senior Consultant, Center for Creative Leadership; and Jill Hough, PhD, Director, Small Urban & Rural Transit Center, North Dakota State University.