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Protecting America's Ports

NCJ Number
NIJ Journal Issue: 262 Dated: March 2009 Pages: 32-36
Date Published
March 2009
5 pages
Publication Series
This study examined local practices in U.S. port security in order to identify promising practices in five general areas: awareness of threats, prevention of an attack, preparedness for an attack, response to an attack, and recovery after an attack.

Regarding the awareness of threats, ports have engaged in two main efforts: stakeholder coordination and collaboration, as well as protocols for detecting and monitoring port-related security risks. The most notable promising practice in coordinating local stakeholders is the establishment of area maritime security committees. Protocols for detecting and monitoring port-related security risks include the use of port security teams within homeland security centers; recruiting a voluntary port security force to work in conjunction with the port police agency; and implementing Port Watch, which is similar to Neighborhood Watch. Efforts to prevent an attack include improvements to physical security and infrastructure at seaports, protocols that limit entry to seaports, technological detection and inspection systems, law enforcement-related activities, and interagency operational centers. Regarding preparedness for an attack, all port security officials with whom the researchers talked agreed their level of preparedness needs to be increased. Promising practices in this area focus on various forms of training for all port personnel. In planning for responding to an attack, many of the ports visited use the Incident Command System, which establishes a "unified command" whereby agency managers share decisionmaking responsibilities. Another promising practice is a team response model, which fosters strong partnerships among various first respondents. Compared to the other four areas, the research team did not observe many promising practices for recovery after an attack; however, one promising practice at two ports is the adoption of a consequence-management approach, which addresses ways to alleviate the short-term and long-term physical, socioeconomic, and psychological effects of a catastrophe. 10 notes

Date Published: March 1, 2009