In Madrid Wake, U.S. Preps for Transit Attacks

Last year’s Madrid (search) bombings, which killed 191 people, raised international concerns and helped make transit security a new priority in the United States. Many officials in the industry are seeking out specialized training to prepare them for such an attack.

“I think the Madrid incident highlighted for transit [workers] in the United States their worst nightmare,” said Jeff Beaty, of TotalSecurity.US (search), a firm that offers such training.

Robert Hertan, head of San Francisco’s Mass Transit Authority, is taking precautions. He went to Pickatinny Arsenal (search) in New Jersey for special training because he says it is better to be safe than sorry.

“It’s like practicing on a team that never plays. You’re always anticipating what you need to do, and hoping that you don’t have to do it,” Hertan said.

Trainees endure security drills involving an impersonator of a suicide bomber strapped with explosives. In one scenario, the bomber is diverted before he can detonate himself; in the other, he is successful in his mission.

“Not only are they trained to be aware, but they are trained for what casing activity looks like and how to handle suspicious packages,” Beaty said.

The dramatic re-enactments of what happened far away make the potential threat hit close to home.

“This wasn’t a picture of something in Israel or in India ... Pakistan or the Philippines. This was a bus in New Jersey, and it got their attention,” Hertan said.