With last week’s news that the CIA foiled a plot by terrorists to use a much more sophisticated underwear bomb to blow up a U.S.-bound airliner, we are once again reminded that terrorists hope to do us harm.

Parking professionals need to be constantly aware of potential threats not only because parking has played a vital role in several domestic terrorist attacks (the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and the explosion that destroyed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City both originated from parking spaces), but also because if terrorists are prevented from attacking in the air, they will shift their focus to the ground.

To help you think differently about potential security threats and help train your staff to do the same, IPI worked with the federal Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to develop the parking module of the First Observer anti-terrorism training program in February 2010. Since then, First Observer, which supports the National Preparedness Guidelines of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, has trained more than 12,500 parking professionals to spot suspicious activity and report it to the proper agencies.

An article in the March issue of The Parking Professional [PDF] highlighted successful outcomes of the program. Those who’ve taken First Observer training say it opened their eyes to activity that might not have seemed suspicious before.

First Observer training is free—there are no associated costs—and accessible to IPI members on-site at members’ operations and electronically through online, on-demand training. Everyone who successfully completes the training class will receive a First Observer card and certificate.

If you or your organization has not taken advantage of this free parking-specific, anti-terrorism program, I strongly encourage you do so. You can schedule training and find out more about the program at www.parking.org/firstobserver or by contacting the First Observer call center at 888.217.5902.

If you’ve taken the training already, how has it changed the way you do your job? Comment below.