Above: Bus operators conduct a bus inspection as part of their recent training.
The Transportation Security Administration is best known for protecting the friendly skies.
But for the last couple weeks, TSA experts have zeroed in on bus security in Kansas City.
Responsible for protecting all of the country’s transportation systems – including mass transit – the TSA held classes for hundreds of operators and mechanics at the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority.
TSA experts led more than 400 employees through a four-hour class capped off with an Easter egg-like hunt for suspicious packages on a bus.
The class was part of an overall effort at the KCATA to bolster security for bus operators and passengers. While the bus system is safe, the KCATA takes security seriously for the riding public.
“Safeguarding our transit system is Job 1 at the KCATA,” said Sam Desue, the KCATA’s chief operating officer. “Our bus operators and riders are precious assets. They count on us to provide a safe work environment and a safe way to get around the city. This training helps us do that.”
The TSA is teaching bus drivers and mechanics how to inspect every part of the vehicle for anything that seems misplaced and unusual. They are picking up clues about watching for suspicious riders.
At the very least, bus drivers and mechanics are being urged to listen to their inner voice. If it just seems amiss or out of place, ask for advice.
“If you have something or see something weird that’s bugging you, at least get somebody else involved,” said Trent Rydberg, specialist for the TSA. “Don’t let yourself be talked out of it and don’t talk yourself out of it. Investigate it. Follow your gut instinct.”
Among other things, KCATA employees were urged to look for these signs:
TSA officials stressed race, gender, religious affiliation, nationality, language and appearance should not be viewed suspiciously.
The training received positive reviews from bus drivers, who think it helps them better understand what they should be looking out for each day on their routes.
“I thought it was an awesome class. It was extremely informative,” said KCATA bus operator Teresa Lowe. “For me it was about what to look for. The class narrowed it down tremendously.”
Praise for the class was shared by bus operator Leonard Haggins.
Like Lowe, the class taught Haggins what he needs to be alert for while driving.
“The class really taught me the importance of being aware and knowing your surroundings,” Haggins said. “You really need to pay attention, be aware of your surroundings and know the signs of someone who is suspicious and is trying to do something."
A recent training from the TSA for bus operators and mechanics included classroom instruction and bus inspections.