Wednesday, May 20, 2009

CSX SecureNow

Yesterday I was invited to join a Blogger Conference Call with CSX. They wanted a chance to show-off their new SecureNow system; their comprehensive method of tracking freight and passenger rail cars on the CSX rail system. From what we were shown they have good reason to be proud of their system. RSSM Monitoring What started as an asset management system has been modified to produce a security monitoring system that allows them to track a large number of potential targets as they move across the CSX system. What will be of the most interest to readers of this blog is the extensive capability to track railcars carrying Rail Sensitive Security Material (RSSM). Not only can they track individual RSSM railcars, but the supporting data base can instantly provide detailed information on the shipment, the RSSM hazard, and details on the rail car construction and layout. They are even working with some RSSM shippers to evaluate the use of a variety of car status sensors as an additional data source. The system is technically impressive, but it does appear to be a logical outgrowth of an asset management system. If the system were limited to just CSX use, that is all that the system would ever be; an extensive, technically-advanced asset management system. What is more impressive to me is the political acumen that led CSX to share the use of the system with private, State and Federal emergency response and security officials. Sharing Information CSX has provided CHEMTREC® with a system terminal and access to the CSX system. CHEMTREC is a private organization established by the American Chemistry Council to provide a single centralized clearing house for chemical safety information for first responders. The CHEMTREC 1-800 number is the go-to source for first responders to go to get the up-to-date information necessary to safely respond to an accident involving hazardous chemicals. I would not be surprised to find that their phone number was the single most common phone number on an emergency responder’s speed dial list. With the SecureNow terminal in operation at CHEMTREC the first responders to a freight rail accident can contact a well known phone number and quickly determine if that CSX train is carrying hazmat, what hazmat material is in which car in the train, how much is in each car, as well as the safety information associated with those materials. It truly makes CHEMTREC a one stop shop for first responders looking for hazmat response information. CSX provides state homeland security personnel with direct access to the SecureNow information through the CSX Public Safety Coordination Center. Dedicated lines from designated State Fusion Centers ensure that security planners and emergency response coordinators have uninterrupted access to CSX information. CSX is also in the process of putting SecureNow terminals in Fusion Centers covering states where CSX provides service. Because of the legal negotiations and training requirements CSX currently only has terminals in Indiana, New York, New Jersey, Kentucky, Maryland and Ohio. Additionally, CSX has installed a terminal in the TSA Freedom Center. The information directly available to TSA from that terminal is certainly in excess of the requirements for reporting the location of RSSM railcars that were included in the latest freight rail car security regulations. Time for Questions At the end of the CSX presentation we were provided some time to ask some general security related questions. I took the opportunity to ask about the implementation of the Freight Rail Security Rules. Readers might recall that I have written two postings on the CSX plans for implementation back in January. In the first I addressed a letter CSX was sending to its customers about implementation plans. In the second I looked at a reply I received from CSX about the first blog. In those blogs I looked at CSX concerns expressed that the attended carrier-to-carrier handoff rules might cause them to change some RSSM routes to avoid using some short line and regional carriers that could not provide attended exchanges. In the second blog I noted that “CSX is certainly not trying to specifically route through urban areas, but they will use this rule to avoid lowering their profits by re-routing around urban areas through use of some other carrier.” I specifically asked Skip Elliott about how many routing changes had been made due to the attended hand-off rules. He told us that CSX had been able to coordinate hand-offs with all of the affected short line and regional carriers. He noted that some exchange locations had been changed, there had been no route changes because of these freight rail rules. It was too early in the implementation of the RSSM routing rules to ask effective questions about that implementations, especially since the only thing being done to date is data gathering. CSX did make a commitment to future blogger calls, so perhaps I’ll get a chance to ask questions on those issues in the future.

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