10 years after 9-11, First Observer primed to funnel info on ‘credible threat’

By Charlie Morasch, Land Line staff writer | 9/9/2011

Breaking news reports before President Obama’s national address Thursday night announced that the Department of Homeland Security had “specific, credible” threat that an attack would be launched in New York City or Washington DC. The perpetrators, the report said, would use either a car or truck bomb on the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001.

For years, a trucking security program called First Observer has warned of the potential danger of a car or truck bomb.

Should truckers witness anything suspicious during the next week, truckers have a toll-free 24-hour resource they can reach to give information about activity or circumstances they notice that, while curious, don’t necessarily warrant a 9-1-1 call.

First Observer’s website and toll free call center (888-217-5902) are available to truckers 24 hours a day.

Doug Morris, who heads OOIDA’s security operations, said DHS had notified First Observer Friday that an attack could take place somewhere, including possibly at a major train, bridge or public gathering such as a sporting event.

“If truck drivers see anything dangerous, call 911 immediately,” Morris told Land Line Magazine. “If it’s something suspicious, then call First Observer.

OOIDA is a subcontractor for First Observer – the Transportation Security Administration’s trucking security program. First Observer aims to develop training modules for highway professionals, train them for anti-terrorism and security preparedness, and receive information from those drivers.

The First Observer program is run by HMS Co. under a contract funded by the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. First Observer has a call center in the DC area, which is trained to gather information from trucking professionals.

OOIDA provides First Observer training and outreach to its 154,000 membership of small-business and professional truckers. Other subcontractors under HMS Co. include the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Total Security Services International Inc., and Patton Boggs LLP.

Truckers that have access to a computer should register as a First Observer online at www.firstobserver.com. If you don’t have access, call the 24/7 number at 888-217-5902, and an operator will help you register.

Morris said he believes Americans are better educated since the 9/11 attacks, and said law enforcement is more connected than ever before. Information filed by First Observer is cataloged and available to the FBI, DHS and numerous other law enforcement agencies.

A series of organized box truck thefts around the country have been marked as possible vehicles for terrorism, Morris said.

New information about potential terror threats, he said, is being shared every few hours among law enforcement and Homeland Security programs like First Observer.

Despite the specific geographic location of this week’s threat, Morris said many other infrastructure pieces nationally could be likely targets.

“Anywhere in the country where there would be a large group of people affected, that would be an easier target,” Morris said.

Copyright © OOIDA