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SEPTA Hosts InfraGard Meeting Focused on Safety & Security of Transit Infrastructure

Andrew Busch
SEPTA Public Information Manager

A safe and secure public transportation system for the Philadelphia region.

That was the recent topic of a meeting SEPTA recently hosted by the Philadelphia Chapter of InfraGard, the FBI's partnership with the business community concerned with the safety and security of local system infrastructure.

InfraGard, a non-profit organization, was developed in the 1990s to encourage the exchange of information by the government and the private sector. Private sector members and FBI field representatives form local area chapters, such as the Philadelphia branch.

The chapters hold regular meetings of members to exchange information and share ideas, such as the recent session at SEPTA Headquarters where potential threats to the transit system, response plans and preparedness were discussed.

"With a service area that covers twenty-two hundred square miles throughout the five county region, as well as reaching up to Trenton in New Jersey and down to Newark, Delaware - we know the importance of having a strong, safe and secure infrastructure," SEPTA General Manager Joseph M. Casey said. "To accomplish this task, SEPTA relies on the coordination and cooperation of individuals and departments across our organization - from Operations to System Safety and the SEPTA Transit Police, just to name a few."

Also stressed was the importance of SEPTA's relationship with other law enforcement agencies.

"We have great working relationships with the Philadelphia Police Department and our other partners throughout the region," said SEPTA Police Chief Thomas Nestel, III. "This is essential to the safety and security of the transit system, whether it involves investigations of robberies and other types of incidents, or preparing for how to handle a terrorist threat."

Casey noted the importance of having the business community involved in this planning, which is aided by the efforts of InfraGard.

"As regional partners, it is key for all of us to continue to keep lines of communication open," Casey said. "By gathering here and sharing information and ideas, we are taking important steps to strengthen our relationships."

One of the highlights of the InfraGard meeting was a tour and information session regarding SEPTA's central Control Center. This facility - often referred to as SEPTA's "nerve center" - allows the Authority to monitor all services system-wide, including subways, Regional Rail, buses and trolleys, while also staying in constant communication with SEPTA police and System Safety personnel.

Assembling the Control Center was a major project that took several years to complete, but is paying off through streamlined communications. This is helping put SEPTA in the best position to respond to emergencies, said Jim Fox, SEPTA's Chief Control Center Officer.

"We have everyone under one roof," Fox said. "This helps a great deal when it comes to monitoring the system and coordinating responses to potential emergency situations."

The central Control Center has also brought with it advances in technology that are providing improvements to customer service. For example, technology used by the Control Center personnel is now available online to give riders real-time travel updates.

"We've been able to take this technology and put it to use for a variety of applications," Fox said. "These have become very valuable tools that our riders count on for information."

InfraGard members, impressed with SEPTA's highly organized operational system, noted that past emergencies and terroristic events relied on public transportation to move people away from the danger zone.

"SEPTA is crucial component to keeping this region safe," said John N. Balog, InfraGard Vice President. "It's great to be able to come here to see this operation first-hand. It gives you a real appreciation for the skills and expertise that are put to use every day to make regional transit move, and move safely."

Jim Fox, SEPTA's Chief Control Center Officer, describes the vast area covered by the SEPTA rail network during the InfraGard session.

SEPTA Police Chief Thomas Nestel, III detailed the role of the Transit Police Department in protecting the system.

Fox explains the function of SEPTA's consolidated Control Center to InfraGard members.

John N. Balog, InfraGard Vice President, gives a presentation to the group at SEPTA Headquarters.

Fox answers questions from InfraGard members in the command room of the Control Center.