6 tips for hardening buildings against explosions

Building security experts discuss structural, procedural steps organizations can take to mitigate their risks

Tip #3: Use a multi-layered security approach

David Shepherd, CEO of Readiness Resource Group: Like with anything you start like an onion. You can have different (security) layers and start protecting from different directions, different levels, and different technologies from the edge of your property inwards. Depending on the threat you are looking at, you can go with license plate recognition systems, you can do regular camera systems to start with, and you can have checkpoints where you enter a property. You have to look at all the particular ways a person or vehicle is going to be a threat and at stopping them and identifying them to make your facility a more hardened target. The difference between a hard target and a soft target is one word - and that word is accessibility.

Tip #4: Reduce the risks posed by vehicles by creating setback

Randall Nason, vice president and manager of the Security Consulting Group at C.H. Guernsey & Co.: How far back can you push the parking and delivery vehicles away from the building proper? That's key. If you have the real estate and you have the procedures in place to screen delivery trucks and mail and things of that nature... to keep vehicles away from your building, your threat of damage due to a blast event goes down. The overpressure effect goes down quite rapidly as you move that explosive device away from the building. Unfortunately, sometimes you simply don't have the real estate to provide any significant setback. You can use things like berms and planters to deflect the blast and if you're effective in doing that, you can actually reduce the amount of setback you need because the berms or the planters or trees will actually reduce the blast overpressure and that will reduce the amount of real estate you might need. It all boils down to getting those vehicles as far away from the building as you can and keeping them there.

Tip #5: Do your research and take advantage of information sharing programs

Shepherd: You can never know too much. Start looking at newswires and different reports and getting involved with the Homeland Security Information Network (HISN) and your local fusion centers. You can also get involved with different association groups, talking with them about protecting different structures. You've got lessons learned, all the way from Mumbai to the latest attacks that are going on now. What have you done? What should have been done? How was that (attack) prevented? How can these attacks be mitigated? How do you look at that attack and how do you stop it? Homeland security has a lot of different reports you can get. There is not one quick fix answer. You have to do your research and talk to people.

Tip #6: Establish relationships with law enforcement

Nason: To the extent possible, the security manager of a major organization ought to try to establish a working relationship with local law enforcement. It's their job to know, and they are probably the first to hear about (potential security threats)... and if they have a relationship of trust, they can pass that on to the security manager so they can take whatever measures they think are appropriate to protect their building and their people. And, if you can raise that to the federal level, especially if you're a security manager over a geographically diverse enterprise... just to keep a handle on what the law enforcement community think might be happening or coming, it gives you a better opportunity to respond to the threat.