The security week that was: 04/30/10

A weekly surveillance of the news shaping your profession


Inherently safer chemicals brings out opposing views

Chemical plant security and safety regulations are the topic of discussion again in the Beltway. There's a new discussion on Capitol Hill about the concept of "inherently safer" chemical technologies -- a business practice of swapping out plants' most dangerous chemicals for ones that are more stable. Last fall, legislation passed the House that would require manufacturers to convert to safer chemicals (away from chemicals like chlorine). The problem is that, while such moves would make plants less likely to release toxic plumes in the case of a terroristic attack or a plant accident, the switch is opposed by chemical manufacturers, who say that such process changes could seriously impact their profitability and overall operations. The American Chemistry Council (ACC) has advocated for voluntary efforts in this area rather than legislated requirements to do the same, and the council noted that the 140 ACC member companies have already spent over $8 billion since 2001 making security enhancements at their facilities. In addition to the "inherently safer" movement from environmental organizations and from Congress, the chemical industry has been subjected to CFATS (chemical facility anti-terrorism standards) efforts to perform risk assessments and security enhancements in recent years.

School security update from China
Recent attacks prompt security changes

When most of us think of school security issues, the first thing that comes to mind is the image of a troubled youth in a U.S. high school bringing guns to school and opening fire on fellow students. While such incidents are statistically rare (extremely rare!), their overall impact on public perception of school safety is large, and they can sometimes be credited for generating "copycat" attacks.

Now, it seems, China is facing a similar problem. Chinese schools have been the sites of attacks in recent weeks. Notably, there was a stabbing attack on 29 students earlier this week and now a hammer-based attack on primary school students that ended when the perpetrator set fire to himself. In response, the Chinese government is ramping up school security by ordering armed police for schools and by demanding higher standards for school security. Just as in the U.S., it takes dramatic events to make us open our eyes to security vulnerabilities.

Speaking of school security (but not in China), I want to draw attention to a news story out of Las Cruces, N.M., where the school district found that the CCTV camera and recorder system on a school bus wasn't working at the time of a violent incident between students. The incident left one child significantly injured from a skull fracture. Upon investigation of that incident, district officials found that the video system, which was installed in 2008, wasn't working at the time. While the systems on the Las Cruces school buses are designed to record video for two weeks before writing over the old data, the system apparently freezes up and the recording disks have to be reformatted so that the system will work again. There are lessons here for end-users: 1) check your systems regularly, 2) stay on top of your vendors -- if their technology isn't working properly, get them to fix it pronto! I'm guessing we won't see a press release case study from the DVR vendor who sold this system.

In other news
Cash delivery officer blasts out, LPR cameras in Chicago, Perimeter security rocks!

A Garda officer on a routine retail cash delivery call shot a robber who attempted to steal the cash bags. … Want better perimeter security? How about rocks? That's what's being used for Nevada's capitol grounds. … Shanghai's new terminal building is using an IP video system from IndigoVision that is tied in with a Tyco access control and a Siemens fire detection system. It even integrates with the luggage handling system. … Chicago is known for municipal surveillance, and now Mayor Daley is proposing a highway camera system to capture license plates to cross-check for drug runners and other nefarious persons. My take? If the cars are going slow in gridlocked traffic, it might work, but I've not yet seen any technology that works consistently for license plate recognition when the cars are blasting by at 70 miles an hour in a variety of environmental conditions. But kudos to the mayor for dreaming big and thinking of the future as he tries to regain a control on drugs and crime in Chicago.