Insider Exclusive: DHS Program Explains What It Means to Be a ‘First Observer’

Insider Exclusive: DHS Program Explains What It Means to Be a ‘First Observer’

This article brought to you by the Bus Industry Safety Council

By David Cooper

For anyone in the surface transportation industry, the issue of security is of top concern. The First Observer Plus™ program provides transportation professionals with the knowledge needed to recognize suspicious activity possibly related to terrorism, guidance in assessing what they see, and a method for reporting those observations. Created by the Department of Homeland Security and administered by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), the First Observer Plus program trains transportation professionals to observe, assess, and report potential terrorist activity.

Al Smith, director of safety/security at Greyhound Lines and ABA’s chair of BISC, has used First Observer training for several years. “Everyone has a role in keeping our nation safe, and at Greyhound we take that seriously,” says Smith. “The updated First Observer Plus program is tailor-made for the motorcoach industry and offers the opportunity for everyone in the industry to inform and educate their employees on the importance of security.” 

The program provides modally specific anti-terrorism and security awareness training for each of the following modes/sub-modes:

Mass Transit

  • Passenger Rail
  • Subways
  • Transit Bus

Highway & Motor Carrier

  • Over-the-Road Bus
  • School Transportation
  • General Trucking
  • General Parking
  • Vehicle Rental
  • Highway Infrastructure

Freight Rail


Each training module is available online in a video format for individual use, or in a classroom/group setting facilitated at your location by a TSA-trained instructor. Both the video online training and an access portal to request on-site training can be found on the TSA First Observer Plus™ website at

Lynette McMillian, CDS, CSS, CDT, director of Safety, NE, Coach USA, in Elizabeth, N.J., replaced the Operation Secure Transport program they were using with the new First Observer Plus program because “it provides a more focused and detailed explanation of what being a ‘First Observer’ is all about. It provides not only information on many recent incidents that took place, but also on many foiled incidents that were prevented,” McMillian explains.

TSA has also established a First Observer Plus™ hotline to report transportation-related suspicious activities that may not rise to the level of an emergency and has staff available 24/7 to handle incoming nonemergency calls. Call 1-844-TSA-FRST (844-872-3778).

For more information, visit or email

David Cooper is Industry Engagement Manager–Highway, Office of Security Policy and Industry Engagement, U.S. Department of Homeland Security–TSA.

About the American Bus Association

The American Bus Association (ABA) is the trade organization of the intercity bus industry, with more than 1,000 motorcoach and tour company members in the United States and Canada. Its members operate charter, tour, regular route, airport express, special operations and contract services. Another 2,800 members are travel and tourism organizations and suppliers of bus products and services who work in partnership with the North American motorcoach industry.


Melanie Hinton, Vice President, Communications & Marketing, ABA
Office: (202) 218-7220
Email: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)