CFATS Compliance: The Role of Intelligent Video

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorist Standards (CFATS) are a comprehensive set of security regulations governing organizations that manufacture, store or transport chemicals. The process of legislating and implementing CFATS has been slower than the general public might desire, but the program is a significant initiative that has made good progress after much give-and-take among the chemical industries, DHS and Congress.

As chairman of SIA’s CFATS Working Group, I have been fortunate to have the opportunity to work with experienced individuals at integration firms, consultants, chemical facilities and DHS. I have seen firsthand how they are working together to educate the industry, advance chemical asset security and maximize the benefits of CFATS implementation.

It is important to note that CFATS does not prescribe specific technologies; instead it provides 18 Risk-Based Performance Standards (RBPS) to assist chemical facilities in selecting and implementing appropriate protective measures to reduce vulnerability and manage risk.

The challenge — and opportunity — for the security marketplace is to provide cost-effective technologies that meet CFATS performance standards. Best practices are now emerging to help select and implement the appropriate technologies to defend against the unauthorized release, theft or sabotage of Chemicals of Interest (COIs).

As of January 2011, CFATS covered 4,755 chemical facilities across all 50 states, according to the DHS Infrastructure Security Compliance Division (ISCD). Most of these have been assigned to a risk-based tier, ranging from high-risk (Tier One) to low-risk (Tier Four). It is important to consider that chemical companies that own Tier Three and Tier Four facilities are at times the same companies that own Tier One and Tier Two facilities. Often, these chemical companies will want to have uniform security processes across all their facilities in all tiers on a national level. The best practices learned from Tier One and Tier Two facilities can also provide good strategies in the other tiers where problems may be similar. Clearly, chemical organizations are often best served by looking to secure their overall assets, regardless of each individual site’s tier level.

Video is starting to play an important role for enhancing perimeter protection capabilities for outdoor facilities in general and for CFATS in particular. CFATS Risk-Based Performance Standards require chemical facilities to detect intrusions at the perimeter and internally around COIs. This helps to avert internal or external theft or sabotage, as per Risk-Based Performance Standards 1, 2, 4 and 10.

Speed is paramount when thwarting an intruder who seeks to compromise operations. The CFATS Risk-Based Performance Standards specifically call for creating sufficient time between detection of an attack and preventing danger to site assets. In this model, early and accurate detection is critical to maintain a high level of vigilance. Various technologies exist so they can provide early detection around the perimeter but knowing the size, location and nature of an event as it unfolds is key to mobilizing an effective response and is best provided by seeing the activity as it unfolds.

Of all the automated detection technologies (fence sensors, fiber optics, seismic sensors, radar, etc.), only video provides the intrinsic detail to display and record the “what and where” of an alert without need for additional verification systems. Intelligent video, when designed for the outdoors, can detect and evaluate the presence of unauthorized persons over buffer zones and large perimeters to provide early warning and actionable data.

With the innovation of intelligent cameras with substantially more on-board image processing, video systems are now available to accurately detect the presence of unauthorized persons over site perimeters and outdoor areas. These smart cameras are designed to filter the effects of environmental elements and provide detection over large areas, regardless of wind, weather or the movement of small animals, trees or blowing trash. When security operations receive accurate information they can mount an appropriate response to the nature of the alert. Such a system yields the necessary “security awareness” around the perimeter to meet CFATS performance standards.

Intelligent video cameras are an economical solution as well. The same image processing that gives smart cameras their outdoor detection accuracy also gives them extended range. Some cameras can automatically detect human-sized objects at distances that exceed 600 meters. As a result, infrastructure requirements (poles, communications and power) can be greatly reduced, lowering overall project costs substantially.

In addition to perimeter security, intelligent video surveillance of outdoor areas is a valuable tool related to other CFATS Risk-Based Performance Standards. These include securing and monitoring restricted areas where chemicals of interest are manufactured, stored or used; deterring insider sabotage; and dealing with specific threats, vulnerabilities or risks. For example, intelligent video can play an important role in protecting internal assets, which often do not have the same types of physical or man-made boundaries found around the perimeter.

In most cases, adding infrastructure around chemical storage tanks would be costly and likely impede the flow of business operations. In this case, intelligent video can be used to create a surveillance “buffer zone” around areas of special concern to control access to volatile areas based on time of day or other criteria to mitigate possible sabotage or theft from insiders.

The key to effective implementation of CFATS is to identify real-world solutions that enable chemical facilities to achieve the 18 risk-based standards. This is a challenge for end-users tasked with meeting the standards, for integrators who will likely specify and install the technology to achieve the standards, and for supplier companies who develop the various systems and components. Obviously, technology is only one aspect of CFATS compliance, but it is an important component that can also help to drive down the costs.

Now that outdoor video analytics can be used as a reliable detection source, chemical facilities can not only achieve accurate detection and trusted alerts, but also can identify detected objects to know the cause of the alert immediately and direct a swift and effective response.


John Romanowich is CEO of SightLogix Inc.