The Security Week That Was: A Recap - Aug. 6-12, 2005

SIW Editor Geoff Kohl gives a weekly surveillance of news shaping your profession


With Wednesday's explosion at a chemical facility in Detroit, chemical plant security shoots directly to top of mind. The explosion at the EQ Resource Recovery plant required the evacuation of hundreds from nearby areas as unidentified chemical fallout – in the form of granular pellets – landed in nearby backyards.

What should be on topic for security executives is that, according to reports, no alarm sounded to alert anyone of troubles in the facility. If this description from the employees is accurate, then clearly the safety/security operations have failed. Notification is an integral part of any security/safety operation, whether we're talking about a fire at a large multi-floor hotel or a small industrial operation with only eight employees.

Secondly, Wednesday's incident encourages me to reflect on what this might mean in terms of legislation for chemical plant security. In February of this year, Linda-Jo Schierow, writing for the Congressional Research Service for the Library of Congress, notes that none of the earlier laws address acts of terrorism at chemical facilities. Schierow's report the goes on to address the ways in which Congress may make laws to address chemical plant security.

Schierow's report addressed a trend in legislation that we've been following closely. Some proponents -- including Senator Corzine and other senators including Inhofe, Clinton and Collins -- have all backed or proposed legislation to address chemical plant security. So far, the chemical industry has been able to address its problems on its own, but with incidents like Wednesday's accidental explosion at EQ Resource Recovery, it's startlingly clear where weaknesses are in the safety and security of our chemical plants.

From what I've heard in the industry, both from security consultants and disaster response planners, no one would prefer that security and safety details at chemical plants be expressly controlled by the government. But if we show that our notification systems for our chemical infrastructure don't work, or that our disaster plans are best described as "let the local authorities deal with it," then we are indiectly encouraging this kind of legislation.

Onto other topics: The FBI has alerted select city officials in NY, LA and Chicago of the possibility that terrorists might use fuel tankers in attacks. The warning was rather limited, and didn't give the usual reliability details. Learn more about this warning here. Also this week, the British police warned Londoners that the city's financial district may be a target, as it proved to be on 9/11 on American soil.

For dealers, it's good news in Minneapolis. If you're selling security in the city, you're probably aware of an existing ordinance that placed minimum standards on CCTV systems for convenience stores and other related enterprises. Now, the city is back at it again, with a proposal to update that ordinance to further clarify what the minimum surveillance standards are. It now incorporates digital systems in the standards and adjusts recording standards for VHS systems. Get on the city's website and get a copy of the proposal; it should be part of your sales kit, and may reflect a trend that other cities could face. Let's face it – businesses who use outdated surveillance technology aren't doing themselves a favor and neither are they serving local law enforcement. Human nature may be to "don't fix it if it isn't broken", but Minneapolis is changing the standards on what "broken" means in CCTV, and as an industry we can applaud this step. Read the full story and get details on the new standards here.

Other top stories to watch from this week of Aug. 6-12: