The U.S. Department of
Transportation has issued a haz mat safety alert for the entire transportation
community, asking that security measures in the transportation community be
reviewed and strengthened as appropriate. The agency is requesting shippers
and transporters of high-hazard materials to consider altering routes to avoid
populated areas whenever practicable.
"I understand the
complexity of these issues, and I know there have been numerous studies on
many of these issues. Yet the larger context has changed dramatically,"
Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta said in a released statement. "We
now face a different security threat not only in transportation, but in all
aspects of American life. We have to be willing to meet that changed threat
with additional counter-measures, and still find ways to keep our transportation
systems the efficient and vital circulation system of our economy. We must
therefore judge our security options in a different light than we might have
judged them in the past."
The DOT stresses that
hazardous materials placed in the wrong hands poses a threat to security and
doesn't take a high degree of training, technical expertise, or sophisticated
equipment to attack with devastating results. Transportation vehicles and
infrastructure are potential "soft" targets. The agency lists several
reasons for this: the number of vehicles and structures makes them difficult
to defend; the economic impact of destroying infrastructure could be significant;
and the public psychological impact of an incident could be tremendous.
"As it would be
impossible to institute airport-style security checkpoints by all modes of
transport, such as highway, preventing such attacks may be accomplished by
simply making transportation workers aware of their surroundings. Transportation
workers should watch for and report any suspicious activities they may see.
Hazmat vehicles should not be left unattended. Companies should insure that
hazardous materials are in responsible and reliable hands."