November marks Infrastructure Security Month, a nationwide effort to recognize and remember the importance of infrastructure security. One of the most important critical infrastructure priorities today is preventing the use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and protecting facilities against IED attacks. Created in response to terrorism events around the globe, CISA’s Office for Bombing Prevention (CISA OBP) plays a leading role in protecting the United States against bombing incidents by enhancing security and resilience at all levels of government, across the private sector and among the public. Central to CISA OBP’s strategy for building nationwide counter-IED security and resilience is its nationally accredited Counter-IED Training and Awareness Program, known simply as OBP Training.
Training is an integral layer of security and resilience programs. Successful security and resilience programs all share a major, common trait: quality training that is designed and used to effectively prevent, protect against, respond to or otherwise mitigate impacts of harm. Since its establishment 15 years ago, CISA OBP’s counter-IED (C-IED) and risk mitigation training has been employed by emergency responders and receivers, security professionals, private sector corporations, as well as the public and has played a prominent role in preparations to protect many U.S. traditions and locations, including the Super Bowl, Boston Marathon and Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, just to name a few.
CISA OBP develops and delivers a diverse curriculum of accredited training and decision-support tools to build nationwide C-IED capabilities across the preparedness spectrum — from prevention to response. The training courses cover a wide range of topics, including IED Awareness, VBIED Detection, C-IED Suspicious Activity and Surveillance Detection, IED Protective Measures, Bomb Threat Management, IED Search Procedures and how to build Security and Resilience for Bombing Incidents.
Training is conducted in-person (both residentially and via a Mobile Training Team), through distance learning options (virtual instructor-led and web-based independent study) via the internet, and train-the-trainer formats to meet stakeholder needs. Recipients include state and local law enforcement, first responders and first receivers, private sector stakeholders, U.S. Government departments and agencies and the general public. CISA OBP is accredited by the International Accreditors for Continuing Education and Training (IACET) and is authorized to issue IACET continuing education units (CEUs).
Cumulatively, CISA OBP’s training programs have equipped more than 140,000 participants in more than 100 major U.S. cities across 53 states and territories with the tools they need to counter-IED threats. Mobile training teams travel the country every week delivering performance-based training, while live instructors conduct virtual training for hundreds/thousands of participants to build counter-IED preparedness in every corner of the nation. CISA OBP has also exported its domestic work globally, through information sharing, training and assistance to partners across the globe.
Over the past 18 months, complex challenges, due in large part to COVID-19, have caused many in-person and resident training programs to close their doors. CISA adapted by providing virtual options for those needing to meet annual training requirements and advance their security needs.
“We were able to rapidly respond to the changing landscape and stakeholder needs by accelerating and expanding the online distance learning programs we already had in place,” says David Williamson, the Deputy Associate Director of OBP. “We recognized the need for distance learning options early on to meet stakeholder demand for virtual environment and independent study and those capabilities have proven invaluable.” CISA OBP has again begun to see demand for its in-person trainings, so it is traveling the country to teach best practices in countering IEDs.
CISA OBP partners with the public and private sectors to tighten security across the country and world. Key among OBP’s capability and capacity building efforts is its Train the Trainer (TtT) program, a congressionally funded initiative focused on building an enduring capability to deliver OBP counter-IED and risk mitigation training by developing and producing a training cadre at the state, local and private sector levels. With its TtT program, OBP provides accredited trainings for organizations to train others on CISA OBP’s curricula. Once trainees complete their training, they are certified to train their workforce, which exponentially increases the preparedness of CISA OBP partners — and their stakeholders.
Just one key private sector partner is the Contemporary Services Corporation (CSC), which has worked with CISA OBP since 2019. “CSC is honored to participate in the TtT program and support the mission of OBP,” says Jay Brock, CSC’s Senior VP of Operations and Training. “The ability to train our staff in a program of this quality gives them additional tools to enhance our services to both our clients and our guests, while making public assemblies safer.”
CISA OBP recently achieved a major new distinction when its TtT program received Block Designation from the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of SAFETY Act Implementation. This gave CISA OBP’s TtT program the designation of being a qualified anti-terrorism technology, which can be a major benefit for the organizations that it partners with. “Taking CISA OBP trainings is one important way that private sector companies can illustrate that they are taking the steps they need to take to mitigate against potential terrorist attacks,” says Curtis Tilley, Chief of CISA OBP’s Counter-IED Training and Awareness Branch. Such private firms can use the CISA OBP Block designation to help get certified under the Safety Act.
This agility to train partners in the manner most conducive to them is critical in a dynamic threat environment. In 2020 alone, there were more than 12,000 explosive-related incidents and more than a 70% increase in domestic bombings, according to Department of Justice's U.S. Bomb Data Center. CISA OBP Training has played a crucial role preparing the nation to deal with this threat by training first responders, private sector corporations and the public on the best practices in bombing prevention. “I think you saved my life,” said Ms. Hailey Harris of Cambridge, MA. A Boston Marathon bombing survivor and beneficiary of OBP counter-IED training was inside a restaurant near the Marathon finish line. Reacting to the first explosion, she recalled OBP training tips that cautioned against the threat of secondary IEDs. “I said we are all staying put until we are told it is safe to evacuate… I was so thankful I knew what do to.” Those who listened to her commands and remained inside were safe when the second bomb exploded nearby. “The training from Homeland Security saved our lives,” she says.
During Infrastructure Security Month, it is more important than ever for us to all get involved and do our part to keep each other safe. Major bombings can cause mass casualties; lead to hundreds of millions of dollars in damage; and cause cascading damage across vital physical and cyber infrastructure. Even hoaxes and bomb threats impose costs by disrupting commerce and drawing on precious law enforcement and first responder resources.
All CISA OBP courses are free and educate public safety officials and private sector stakeholders on key strategies to prevent, protect against, respond to and mitigate bombing incidents. OBP also provides a range of videos and other materials online to enable people to recognize and report suspicious activity and take other action. For more information about OBP’s C-IED training offerings, email OBPTraining@cisa.dhs.gov or click here.