Special Report: Government Security - CFATS and Surveillance

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) were designed to provide guidance for organizations involved in manufacturing, storing and/or transporting chemicals. While a number of questions about the future of CFATS remain, the underlying concepts as outlined in the Risk-Based Performance Standards continue to represent a sound and effective security practice that suits all facilities tasked with protecting these key assets in the outdoors.

Recent events, such as the explosion at the chemical plant in West, Texas, have brought a new sense of urgency around the issue of chemical security. At this point, it remains conjuncture about what specifically happened at the facility, as the events are still being analyzed; however, these high-profile events point to the need for accurate security systems and clear guidelines such as those defined by CFATS. A lack of clear standards can be an impediment to market growth, as integrators and end-users are consumed by performing their own evaluations of equipment to determine the best solutions for their applications.

My participation as Chairman of the Security Industry Association’s Perimeter Security Subcommittee has provided me insight into the emergence of best practices, including selection and implementation of appropriate technologies to protect critical assets such as those which will fall under CFATS.

Importantly, CFATS does not prescribe specific technologies that organizations should deploy; instead, the rules specify that facilities meet 18 Risk-Based Performance Standards covering a range of vulnerabilities, such as perimeter security, access control, theft, internal sabotage and cyber security. New technologies such as smart video are expanding the capabilities of perimeter security systems and taking their place alongside more mature technologies such as physical barriers and other perimeter sensors. These advanced technologies and legacy solutions must work together to maximize the benefit to the end-user.

Smart video is an example of how technology can deliver CFATS compliance. The Perimeter Security Subcommittee is currently charting a plan of action and creating working groups to address topics such as performance and operational standards for video perimeter security, physical barriers and other sensors.

Let’s take a look at how smart outdoor video systems contribute to chemical facility security and CFATS compliance:

Early detection. CFATS Risk-Based Performance Standards require chemical facilities to detect intrusions at the perimeter and internally around chemicals of interest (COIs), creating sufficient time between detection of an attack and danger to site assets. Early and accurate detection is essential. Numerous technologies can provide early detection of a perimeter security breach, but smart cameras provide the added benefit of visual evidence without need for additional verification — saving valuable response time.

Dependability of alerts. Solutions deployed to protect facilities must be able to detect the presence of unauthorized persons anywhere across site perimeters and outdoor areas. Smart thermal cameras can provide accurate detection over large areas, regardless of wind, weather or the movement of small animals, trees or blowing trash, and now operate well during bright sunlight or in complete darkness. Better accuracy ensures no nuisance or false alarms. Thermal cameras can provide clear views of perimeters and large outdoor areas despite variable lighting conditions, and recent developments in image processing have increased the accuracy and image quality of thermal cameras, while dramatically bringing down costs.

Details on location and type of alarm. Achieving security awareness depends on knowing the precise location and nature of an intrusion. Smart video cameras now use GPS-based analytics to determine the size, speed and bearing of detected objects according to their precise location. GPS can also be used to steer pan-tilt-zoom cameras to zoom in and follow detected objects for close-up identification.

Protection of perimeter and internal assets. CFATS requires securing and monitoring restricted areas where COIs are manufactured and stored. Intelligent video is a good tool to protect internal assets where physical or man-made boundaries are unlikely to exist. Smart video can be used to create a surveillance “buffer zone” around areas of special concern to control access based on time of day or other criteria, mitigating possible insider sabotage or theft.

Assurance of ongoing system operation. CFATS requires that systems monitor their health and provide alerts should they cease to function, a capability built into many smart video solutions.

Affordability. While CFATS does not directly address system costs, the reality of business operations makes doing so a requirement. Using long-range thermal cameras that cover greater distances reduces the number of cameras needed, along with reductions in infrastructure and associated costs.


John Romanowich is CEO of SightLogix Inc. To request more information about SightLogix, please visit www.securityinfowatch.com/10215746.